"Threshold, alongside partner agencies in Swindon, recently led the most comprehensive survey of homelessness undertaken in the town using the ‘Homeless Link Health Audit’ instrument, which has been refined with every iteration of its use nationally."
Graeme Willis Threshold CEO said: "the statistics nationally reveal a harsh reality for those that are homeless. For instance, people affected by homelessness are ten times more likely to die than those of a similar age in the general population.
The average age of death of a homeless person is 47 (43 for homeless women), compared to 77 for the general population.
- Drug and alcohol abuse are particularly common causes of death among the homeless population, accounting for just over a third of all deaths.
- Homeless people are more than nine times more likely to commit suicide than the general population.
- Homeless people are more likely to die from external causes. Deaths as a result of traffic accidents are three times as likely, infections twice as likely and falls more than three times as likely for homeless people.
“With shocking national statistics, we wondered why nobody had undertaken any research in Swindon into the health needs of homeless people. We had seen people being discharged from hospital to the streets, literally turning up at soup kitchens in pyjamas. We had experienced huge problems in accessing mental health treatment for seriously ill, highly vulnerable people – many who were unable to get prescriptions for the essential medicines they needed".
"We wanted to ascertain the true reality of homelessness is Swindon. In order to better understand the health needs of single homeless people in the borough of Swindon, we developed a campaign with our partners. Together with volunteers and staff from a wide range of organisations, who had regular contact with rough sleepers and other homeless individuals, we conducted the survey across two weeks in September 2018. A total of 85 in-depth questionnaires were completed, the survey consisted of up to 70 questions and sought to identify both gaps in services provision and well as where needs were being met. The responses were anonymous and self-determined and the findings sought to give a detailed position of the background of homeless respondents".
Headline findings reveal:
- Over two thirds of the sample group stated that they had a long standing illness or disability and nearly half of those questioned stated that they had some form of mental health problem.
- Of those who had been admitted to hospital, 43% claimed to have been discharged back to the street and of those 29% had been readmitted within a month.
- Whilst the majority of respondents were registered with a GP, a significant number were either not in receipt of treatment or felt that the treatment on offer did not fully meet their needs. Rates of self-harm and attempted suicide were high.
"The issues of homelessness have a financial impact on the NHS, the police, the council and charities. Unfortunately the reality is that overall costs are greater if prevention and treatment services are not well planned and adequately resourced. We reasoned that without knowing accurately what the problems are, it is logically difficult to imagine how we can be a wholly effective part of planning the solution?”
Threshold, who have prepared the research report, are eager along with their partners that deliver services to homelessness individuals to share the findings of the survey.
Michael Keenan, Threshold's Business Development Manager said: "It was an extremely important undertaking, made possible through collaboration with our partner organisations working in the homeless sector in Swindon. We consulted directly with our town’s homeless population, seeking to ascertain a clear picture of their individual circumstances, and particularly their respective health needs. Our motivation in doing so was to empirically reflect, in comprehensive detail, the reality of existence for homeless individuals in our town. With limited resources across the borough, and within our own charity, we wanted to be certain that finite resources were deployed to maximum impact for the benefit of those in desperate need. By publishing this report we hope that partners within health, housing, and in the voluntary sector will be able to plan their services more effectively to improve the lives of our homeless population".
Gill May, Director of Nursing and Transformation, Swindon CCG, said, “Our goal as a CCG is to ensure that all people have access to healthcare at the point of need, in a timely way and seen by the right service and right person, and it is so important that Swindon’s homeless community is not excluded from this. In recent months I’ve been fortunate enough to spend some time with homeless people from across Swindon, and I’ve been shocked to hear of the difficulties many face when trying to access the everyday NHS services most of us take for granted. This report, which is full of valuable insight into what life on the streets is really like, will go a long way in helping us together deliver practical healthcare solutions – such as free flu jabs and support for drug and alcohol addiction – that will hopefully make life that little bit easier for some of the most vulnerable people in our town”
Michael said, "our sincere thanks go to staff and volunteers from Swindon Homeless Helping Hands, Salvation Army’s Booth House, Big Breakfast, Threshold, The Nightshelter and Healthwatch".