Blog: Health & Homelessness

After blogging the Mass Propers, offering the Breviary and before retiring to my bed last night, snow was falling on Brighton and Sussex. The windchill factor was subzero and the originally forecast rain was coming down as great fluffy snowflakes. As one does these days, I immediately took a photo and posted it to my Facebook page! But beginning to feel the chill through my thick dressing gown, my thoughts turned to those who I would normally see in the morning.

As many readers will know, normally on Wednesday’s after Mass I swap my place at the altar for one at the oven and manage the kitchen for The Hub homeless drop-in at Brighton Salvation Army. Fortunately a very good friend, son of one of our parishioners and a member of our “Cherubs” team was able to cover me today. Not because I was deserting my post to feed the hungry, but because I was booked on a conference about tending to other physiological needs that affect the well being of our homeless guests. Offering Mass slightly earlier than usual to facilitate travel, I jumped on a bus and arrived at the conference in time for the introductions.

Anyone working with the homeless in Brighton & Hove is aware of the great work provided by Arch Healthcare CIO founded in 2016 is a specialist GP surgery which only registers homeless patients in the Brighton and Hove area: this includes street homeless, sofa surfers, temporarily housed and the traveller community. As well as their nurses and GPs working in the surgery, Royal Sussex County Hospital and Mill View, there is a team of five non-clinical engagement workers working across the city with patients. They work particularly with patients who are being discharged from Royal Sussex County and Mill View Hospitals. They help with things like getting patients to the GP surgery, getting them registered with relevant services and taking them to drug and alcohol services. They also get involved in aspects other than healthcare from benefits to housing issues to general sorting out and social problems, tending to the needs of the whole person, not just the medical.

Today’s conference was hosted by Arch Healthcare together with Brighton and Hove Frontline Network (facilitated by Justlife in partnership with St Martin’s Frontline Network). The Frontline Network helps frontline staff and volunteers to build relationships, share best practice, develop solutions and communicate their experience and views on frontline service delivery. Justlife  provide frontline services that have a dual strategy to prevent people falling into homelessness and to progress those who are homeless towards and into safe, healthy and stable lifestyles. Their skilled frontline workers use knowledge, experience and training to carry out support work and are empowered to make person centred decisions.

The conference was titled “Health and Homelessness”. Workshops were offered on Mental Health, COPD & Asthma, Hepatitis C & Diabetes and Drugs & Alcohol Abuse expertly facilitated by Arch medical practitioners. After presentations introducing each topic a Q&A session followed where participants could share their experience of supporting people with any, some or all of the conditions. After lunch, a snapshot presentation on Arch’s strategic approach to health service delivery for the homeless, the “Hub and Spoke Model” and then guest speakers from Brighton & Hove Council Officers informing of us the new winter night shelter provisions and future projects. This was followed by two sessions one for frontline workers on Self Care (how to look after their own mental health and well being) and another for clinicians on Managing Complex Care (many homeless people present with a large number of different health issues). The afternoon concluded with a “showcase” of various frontline services telling us about what they do and how to refer clients.

Arch and Justlife frontline staff are regular visitors to The Hub drop-in where they arrange to meet clients and share a meal, socialise and help signpost other guests to services and help they may need. It was great to be able to spend some time talking to support workers and other frontline service staff actually away from the business of The Hub when often one can only generally snatch a quick greeting! It was also useful to catch up with other contacts from other frontline services like St Mungo’s who look after those sleeping rough, the indomitable Jim Deans from Sussex Homeless Support who run the winter night-bus shelter, the Clock Tower Sanctuary who offer assistance and support to young homeless people, Brighton Women’s Centre who specialise in help for homeless women as well as refuge cases, and St John’s Ambulance who provide First Aid at the Soup Run and a podiatry clinic for the homeless and Helen Starr-Keddle from Brighton & Hove Food Partnership.

It was certainly good to hear that our homeless friends will be well-catered for this winter with the successful Brighton Centre Night Shelter running again providing not just shelter but hub services again for referrals, a new Women’s Night Shelter and a new permanent setting for SWEP the severe weather night shelter all coming online this week and next. There was much food for thought, not least how the faith community through our BHFA Homeless Partnership could help support not just the homeless but frontline workers too. Overall it was encouraging and reassuring to know that there were so many professionals both medical and frontline, passionate about supporting our Wednesday Hub guests and others across our city.

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