Becky Evans on ‘#HealthNow – Creating a foundation for moving out of homelessness’

‘More focus on understanding the systemic reasoning behind the inequalities is needed in order to try to remove the barriers.’

First published September 2019 by Steet Support Network, written by Becky Evans, Fundraising and Communications Manager, Groundswell.

Homelessness and Health Inequalities
The level of recent media attention on homelessness and early preventable deaths will have not escaped many people. The reality is that that at least 235 people affected by homelessness have died during the first half of this year (January – June 2019) – an average of one person every 19 hours.

When someone is homeless, they are often living chaotic lives, trying to navigate systems working in silos to find a safe place to sleep, secure work, claim benefits and overcome debt – their health is not a priority. University College London (UCL) recently found that nearly one third of homeless people who died in an 18-month period, died from treatable conditions including tuberculosis and pneumonia which could have potentially been improved with early diagnosis and the right medical care.

If we are to try and reverse the inequalities experienced by homeless people and reverse this crisis, more focus is needed on poor health outcomes which is both a cause and consequence of homelessness. Moreover, more focus on understanding the systemic reasoning behind the inequalities is needed in order to try to remove the barriers. That’s where the #HealthNow partnership comes in.

Participation is the catalyst for the success of #HealthNow
Here at Groundswell we believe that without the involvement of people with experience of homelessness the solutions developed to the issues affecting this group, such as health inequalities, will not be effective. Those who have experienced the problem have the best solutions and therefore will be in the lead of #HealthNow. We know that by putting people with experience of homelessness in the lead of a new approach to tackling homeless health inequalities, the issues can be more effectively addressed.

Homeless Health Peer Advocacy (HHPA)
Groundswell has partnered with Crisis (in Birmingham and Newcastle) and Shelter (in Manchester) to support them to deliver Homeless Health Peer Advocacy (HHPA). The award-winning model has been helping people experiencing homelessness address their physical and mental health needs in London since 2010. Local volunteers with experience of homelessness will be trained to become peer advocates, supporting homeless people to access the healthcare they need. People need support to overcome the barriers to accessing health care and treatment and the system needs to learn from their shared experience and make the changes needed to tackle health inequality.

Local #HealthNow alliances
Our local partners, alongside people with experience of homelessness and other stakeholders within the homelessness and health sectors, will form local #HealthNow alliances in Birmingham, Greater Manchester and Newcastle. Each local alliance will be informed by peer-led research to understand and raise awareness of local barriers to accessing healthcare for homeless people. Local #HealthNow alliance members will use this insight to co-produce solutions to overcome homeless health inequalities in their area. The local #HealthNow alliance meeting was hosted in Birmingham on 10th September.

National #HealthNow alliance
The local activities, insight and changes uncovered by each local #HealthNow alliance will inform a national #HealthNow alliance. The activities of HHPA combined with the local #HealthNow alliance research will lead to nationwide actions being adopted to improve homeless health, ultimately helping people move out of homelessness. Click here to see the full outline of the #HealthNow vision, aims and objective.

Get involved in #HealthNow
The easiest way to keep up to date with the latest news, opportunities and campaigns is to sign up to the #HealthNow e-newsletter; you can specify whether you’re interested in particular locations or the national campaign.

Contact #HealthNow Network Coordinator, Rachel Brennan, on [email protected], if:

  • You’d like to learn more about developing a Homeless Health Peer Advocacy service in your area.
  • You are:

– Someone who has experienced homelessness
– Work within the homelessness or health sector
– Are a funder or commissioner
– Someone who feels they could add knowledge, skills, connections or expertise to the #HealthNow model then consider joining one of the #HealthNow alliances; either locally in Birmingham, Manchester or Newcastle, or if you have national coverage the national alliance.