16 August 2022

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‘We need to address homelessness’

"If people who are homeless aren’t accessing health and social care, they’re also not accessing end of life care and that is our business and our responsibility"

Maaike Vandeweghe – Senior Educationalist

As an educationalist, I love to learn, to be exposed to new ideas and challenges and to share these with my fellow professionals all in the interests of increasing access to quality end of life care.

It’s that passion for engaging people in fresh thinking about topics that take them out of their comfort zone that makes me even more excited about one of our upcoming conferences than I am normally.

With core homelessness predicted to rise to 270,000 by 2024, this is an issue, and a group of people we really need to get to grips with. Shockingly, the average age of death for men and women who are homeless is 45.9 and 41.6 respectively. When you add into the mix the fact that many of them have very limited or no access to health and social care, you start to realise the scale and the type of challenge we’re facing.

That’s why we’re hosting Reaching the Forgotten at St Christopher’s CARE on 22 September, because if people who are homeless aren’t accessing health and social care, they’re also not accessing end of life care and that is our business and our responsibility.

Make no mistake, tackling this challenge will not be straightforward. Ignoring it will not make it go away though. The inequitable access faced by this growing community is staggering and we can’t just stand by and watch it happen.

Of course, we see and read about the barriers, such as the stigma attached to this community, our stereotypical views of people with mental health and substance abuse issues who won’t or can’t always comply with treatment. However, these aren’t good enough reasons not to work collaboratively to reach them, simply because they are a group that is hard to reach.

I am truly hoping that this conference will help to kickstart a new interest and approach to how we address homelessness and how we set about ensuring that this community has equitable access.

I’m looking forward to hearing from key speakers about the pilot projects we ran with two homelessness shelters. This saw St Christopher’s empowering and upskilling staff at the hostels run by Evolve Housing to better identify people that need end of life care, assess their needs and advocate on their behalf so that they no longer fall between cracks in the system. You’ll also get hear about this project from the point of view of Evolve’s Service Manager, Denell Dema, as well as from Dr Caroline Shulman, Co-Clinical Leas, Homeless Health Programme at the Healthy London Partnership.  It was Caroline who introduced us to Evolve and is one of the leading authorities on homeless and inclusion health.

We know we won’t be able to solve this problem or overcome all the challenges in a single conference. We see this as the starting point and really hope as many people as possible working in end of life care, local authorities, the housing sector and social services will come together and join us as we start this journey not only to make this largely invisible community more visible, but as we look at a longer-term plan to develop resources, toolkits, webinars and possibly a community of practice.

If you’d like to collaborate with us as we start to change the landscape, learn together and extend the reach of good end of life care, then register for Reaching the Forgotten now.

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