‘We’re here to provide a service that meets the aims of people who’ve had a rough time’ – Rachael Swift – Homeless Health
Homeless Health is about providing the homeless community with the health support they need to get back on their feet. Advanced Nurse Practitioner Rachael shares the ins and outs of providing this much-needed resource.
“We’re here to provide a key service for people who have had a rough time – and can’t access healthcare like everyone else. They deserve the chance like everyone else and shouldn’t be excluded because they don’t’ have a place to call home. This is where we come in.
“Homeless Health, delivered through a partnership between Brighter Futures’ Community Outreach Vehicle, North Staffordshire GP Federation, and the North Staffordshire CCGs, work closely with people with short to long-term homelessness.
“The caseloads vary and we, unfortunately, see new people all the time. It varies because they come and go. Homeless people only have an average life expectancy of 47 and the critical interventions we provide go a long way to increasing that.
In our experience, people are made homeless with all kinds of complex needs to address – with a combination of both physical and mental health needs right at the top of them. Because their needs are complex, all services must come together to support what we do. They all have their expertise, and we liaise with them all.
“It’s impossible to say that every day is the same, but we try and stick to a rota so we’re in different places at set times – this includes being out and early from 6:00am with the Brighter Futures Rough Sleepers Team. Treatment wise it varies in a wide way.
“A key part of our role is to engage with people. We might be the only ones they tell something to – a key reason for their homelessness. We must also understand that people aren’t just going to change their lives at the click of a finger. We work with people to address their help positively – it’s easy to be disappointed in them, but you have to put yourselves in their shoes. You’re disappointed for them, not with them.
“Some of our patients are so chaotic that they need ongoing management. They’re at serious risk of death in some other extreme cases. But they’re people you must persist with and encourage to engage. If it’s down to them alone, they won’t carry on with it. We’re here to provide a consistent presence by seeing them twice a week where we can.
“Building relationships is both the best feeling and the worst feeling. Something that works one day doesn’t in the next and you must deal with it on the spot.
“We have an excellent team and great support. I know from my own experience, that complex needs are a niche market for nursing, and knowing I’m helping people who can’t always help themselves. That, alone, is rewarding and I feel like I’m doing a worthwhile job.”