Working to address the gap between health and homelessness means taking a different approach to how we view and treat those facing homelessness.
There are many barriers to accessing healthcare services for those living on the streets, such as not having a fixed address, language barriers, learning difficulties and past trauma. The reality is that many of the people we meet are dealing with ongoing physical and mental health issues for which they need help and support.
In collaboration with Leeds community charity Barca, we're part of a 12-month project to improve how those facing homelessness access the healthcare they need. Read on to find out more.
What are we doing?
Under the initiative, there are now two Health and Wellbeing Navigators and the involvement of other health agencies in Leeds. Together, we're working to give those facing homelessness better access to the healthcare and support they both need and deserve.
Here at Simon on the Streets, our incredible outreach worker, Fran, is our dedicated Health and Wellbeing Outreach Worker. We're proud of the work she's doing and the progress we're seeing. When working with someone living on the streets, Fran carries out an initial assessment to establish whether they have any health and wellbeing issues or concerns, identifying those who have specific complex health needs that will involve more intensive support. For example, it might be that they've been discharged from the hospital after an illness or injury or undergoing health tests and medical procedures.
One of our ongoing projects is a regular optician clinic with Home Opticians. They reached out to us to offer their support at the beginning of the year and have since prescribed sixty-five pairs of glasses to our clients.
People facing homelessness are often unable to qualify for free eye tests if they don’t claim benefits and won’t usually be able to afford to pay for glasses. Fran’s hard work makes it possible for more people facing homelessness to address their health needs.
There's now also the opportunity to address more than just physical well-being. A lovely example happened recently, working with a gentleman who enjoys playing the guitar. Alongside helping with his housing situation, we also found a guitar class for him to attend - things like this matter.
Why is it so important?
We need to address the unfairness of health inequalities associated with homelessness. For those living on the streets, physical health is rarely a priority. Instead, they're focused on fulfilling basic needs such as finding food, shelter and money. In addition, numerous negative experiences have led to a deep distrust of professional services for many people experiencing homelessness.
Co-production is at the heart of this project. As we progress, we'll constantly evaluate people's experiences, both positive and negative, and the outcomes they're seeing when accessing healthcare provision. We'll be talking more about this in the coming weeks and months, so make sure you're subscribed to our blog to learn more.
Here at Simon on the Streets, trust is vital. Getting to know the people we work with and understanding their individual needs is essential because providing support isn't about solving problems or dictating change; it's about giving those facing homelessness opportunities and choices to build their future.
Contact us now to learn more about how you can help Simon on the Streets make a real difference.