By Annie Waddington-Feather, Trustee to The Shrewsbury Ark
The latest government annual statistics for statutory homelessness assessments and activities in England 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2022 reveal 278,110 households were either being threatened with homelessness or already homeless, up 2.8% from the previous year.
Worryingly, the report found more working people are facing homelessness, up 16% to 68,010 households, and families has increased by 24% to 93,290 households.
As well as devastating, dangerous and isolating, people experiencing homelessness face some of the worst health outcomes.
The homelessness charity Crisis states the average age of death for people experiencing homelessness is 46 for men and 42 for women, and homeless people are over nine times more likely to take their own life than the general population.
It’s vital that homeless, and other vulnerable people are connected to support services as soon as possible. According to Crisis “the longer someone experiences rough sleeping, the more likely it is they will develop additional mental and physical health needs, substance misuse issues and have contact with the criminal justice system. The more complex needs someone has, the more help they will need to move on from homelessness.”
The government’s recent ‘Ending Rough Sleeping For Good’ strategy highlights the need to join up systems to provide the most effective support to people sleeping rough, and looks to new local Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) to take account of the health and social care needs of people sleeping rough in their area.
However, many often feel intimidated or uncomfortable accessing health and care services through usual routes, and this is where charitable organisations step in.
Integrated Healthcare for homeless and vulnerable people in Shrewsbury
The Shrewsbury Ark is a local charity offering day centre services for the homeless and vulnerable. It is a place where trust is built, and people are supported and given opportunities to make positive changes in their lives. The showers, washing machines and driers are constantly used and there are creative activities and other support sessions for teaching basic life skills and personal development.
Since The Ark relocated to larger premises earlier this year, through strategic partnerships, it now offers the most vulnerable in the community vital access to healthcare services in a space where they feel respected, safe and secure.
Medical Clinics and Oral Health
Providing essential GP services, Riverside Medical Practice run weekly clinics in the Ark’s dedicated medical room.
The heptology clinic runs in partnership with Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, and The Hepatitis C Trust regularly tests people for hepatitis; if anyone tests positive, the Ark supports them with wrap around care for ongoing treatment.
A partnership with Healthy Smile team, Oral Health Improvement and Shropshire Community Dental Services is improving oral health.
As well as working with the Shropshire Recovery Partnership, the Ark offers Intuitive Recovery courses, and other drug and alcohol support services will soon operate from the premises.
Counselling and mental health services
Axis counselling provides support to survivors of all types of sexual abuse and SALUTE delivers individual trauma intervention sessions.
The Ark is a designated ‘Safe Place’ and more mental health services operating from the premises are in the pipeline.
Support from staff and volunteer cannot be under estimated. The charity employs a full-time manager and eight part-time support, outreach and admin staff. However, it is the team of 50 plus volunteers that enable the Ark to operate.
As proud recipients of the Queens Voluntary Service Award, as well as cooking hot breakfasts and lunches daily for over 50 people, volunteers help with wrap-around care, take people to essential appointments or quietly support people in their homes, ensuring they remain connected and engaged with the community, and preventing mental health relapse.
The Ark never charges for its services and the charity is funded entirely by grants and donations.
Visit www.shrewsburyark.co.uk to find out more or make a donation.