A new report out of London says stigmas around homelessness and social exclusion stop those sleeping rough from accessing appropriate healthcare – leading to early deaths.
The research looked into deaths among those who had moved on from rough sleeping, supported by Tenant Sustainment Teams (TST). TST, similar to the crisis and housing counsellors at Haven Toronto, offer practical support, such as helping clients resolve issues with landlords, helping them with system navigation, and offering emotional support. TST helps service users break free of the cycle of homelessness.
The latest research represented further evidence of the health inequalities faced by people who are homeless and of the need for more integrated health care for them.
Howard Sinclair, chief executive at St Mungo’s, one of two organizations behind the research, says, "People need a home for good but also to feel confident again, have friends, feel included in society."
He adds, "This needs public services to work together to address the range of problems people may face, even after moving away from the street.”
Researchers worked directly with people receiving TST support and their support workers. Their work looked at all people who presented with low to moderate health needs as people with complex health needs are a minority in the TST cohort.
The research not only outlines the long-term health effects of rough sleeping, but also how support workers can best help these needs.
Evident in the findings is the negative impact of rough sleeping on mental and physical health and self-worth, with case studies showing the biggest risk factors to people’s health as social isolation, bereavement, violence, exploitation, and issues with benefits.
Also behind the research is Bill Tidnam, chief executive at Thames Reach, who said the findings showed that even after people are housed, the damaging impact of street homelessness is still with them.
"They are likely to have a higher level of chronic illness," says Tidnam. "Treatment is likely to be less effective and they are likely to die earlier."
Reiterating the “terrible toll” rough sleeping can take on the most vulnerable in society, the report is intended to help start a conversation with medical practitioners that aims to improve treatment and care of people who are, or once were, homeless.
Stigma Stops Former Rough Sleepers Accessing Healthcare
By Bill Tanner, 24housing