Reading charity tackling the health costs of homelessness this Winter launches volunteer campaign
Published by Susan Littlemore for Riverside in Housing and also in Communities, Health
Rachel Irons, Riverside-ECHG Team Leader (back centre) with team members Jane Barker and Hiba Celemerovic (front, left to right), accompanied by Hamble Court clients with supplies in preparation for the cold weather.
Tackling the health costs of homelessness this Winter – a new campaign kicks off across Reading to help rough sleepers in advance of temperatures dropping.
In preparation for colder temperatures hitting the region over the coming weeks, a local housing association is tackling the extra costs and strain on the health service by providing more than just emergency beds for rough sleepers in Reading this winter.
Riverside-ECHG provides specialist housing and support for homeless people and is launching its Well Winter campaign to tackle health problems among homeless people, including the estimated 500 rough sleepers expected to use its services across the country from now until next Spring.
“The Health Service is under enormous pressure which is worse during winter months as the elderly and other vulnerable groups, such as people sleeping rough, can experience added health issues.” said Rachel Irons, Riverside’s Support Team Leader for Reading service Hamble Court, commissioned by Reading Borough Council.
“Working with homeless people in our nine emergency cold weather beds at Hamble Court, we realise Riverside is in a unique opportunity to help ease some of this burden and our team is providing a range of health-related support to the rough sleepers who come to us.”
At Hamble Court, Riverside’s health support this winter includes:
- Emergency healthcare via its visiting nurse and screening programme for blood-borne viruses such as hepatitis, HIV and tuberculosis.
- Its weekly alcohol group, which is also open to members of the wider community, for people wishing to seek alcohol support. The group is run by Hamble Court clients who meet to share their experiences and offer peer support, followed by an educational and therapeutic session led by a Riverside team member.
- Liaising with external agencies such as Reading Borough Council and Launchpad Reading that will be able to offer further health services/support.
This month (January 2014) the Riverside team in Reading is launching a volunteer campaign in order to build extra support in preparation for falling temperatures. The centre is looking for members of the public who have caring side to volunteer on selected nights when temperatures drop below zero degrees for three consecutive days.
Volunteers must have good communication skills and a friendly manner. Responsibilities will include directing rough-sleepers to the site’s emergency beds and engaging in conversation to discover underlying health or social issues for which support can be provided at Hamble Court.
Full inductions will be given prior to assisting the Riverside team during the cold weather. If you think you have the necessary befriending skills required and interested in becoming a volunteer, please contact Rachel Irons on 01189 505 551or 07854 403 309.
While there are no nationally-recognised figures for the cost to the Health Service of dealing with un-managed health issues among homeless people, in September the Government estimated that homeless people are up to six times more likely than the general public to attend A&E departments and that seventy percent are discharged back onto the street without their care needs being properly addressed.
Additionally, homelessness research has indicated that the cost of addressing the physical health issues caused by being homeless can range from £6,000 to over £44,000 for each person.
Riverside’s housing services across the country will be offering more than 100 emergency Cold Weather beds each night during the freezing weather. The organisation is committed to improving health and reducing healthcare costs arising from homelessness and is undertaking Homelessness Health Support research to show how organisations working with homeless people can best do this.
Additionally, Riverside is working with the Government on its national rough sleeper initiative, No Second Night Out, in Greater Manchester, Midlands, London and the South East.