Q: I thought homeless people are homeless by choice.
People are homeless for lots of different reasons and very often not by choice. There are social causes of homelessness, such as unemployment, poverty and a lack of affordable housing. Life events can cause people to become homeless, such as bereavement or a breakdown in a relationship. People can become homeless when they leave the army, the care system or prison.
Q: Why can’t the homeless walk into the doctor’s surgery and book an appointment like I have to?
In theory, a homeless person can walk into the doctor’s surgery. Anyone can register with a GP even without an address. However, in reality, when a homeless person does go to a GP Practice they find it difficult to register because they have no ID or address. Often a homeless person feels stigmatized by how they look and smell and find it humiliating sitting in a waiting room full of people staring at them. Access to a GP practice can be difficult due to mobility issues; they may not have money for a bus fare to there or a mobile to call for an appointment. 50% of the homeless have no access to a phone, those that do may not have credit or battery to use the phone to call and make an appointment. These are all barriers to the homeless accessing healthcare.
Q: I have to wait a long time to see my Doctor, why should the homeless get special treatment with a bus that goes to them?
When you talk to a homeless person ‘health’ is often not a priority for them. They are in survival mode. Most will tell you that their biggest concern is safety and having food and shelter. Therefore, many homeless people ignore health issues until the problems become acute. It is far more cost effective to medically treat someone in Primary Care (GP) rather than Secondary Care (A&E). The HealthBus system works well as we take the healthcare to the homeless, enabling them to avoid visits to A&E.
Q: If you keep providing services for the homeless, will it not attract more homeless people to the area and then there will be no incentive for them to come off the streets?
That perception may well be true but the HealthBus works in collaboration with multiple services to help deal with many of the underlying issues of homelessness. We help to signpost the homeless, offering support which enables the homeless to deal with personal issues and gain access to accommodation, taking steps to leading meaningful lives. With the right support there is incentive for the vast majority of homeless people to move off the streets.
Q: If it is so important, why isn’t the HealthBus funded by the NHS or the local council?
This is a good question. Current NHS and local government funding has been prioritised in other areas. We believe that there is a general lack of understanding around the unique challenges that people rough sleeping experience. Rough sleeping is the most extreme form of homelessness. Rough sleepers experience substantial health inequalities. Despite continued lobbying there is no statutory funding to sustain the service the HealthBus provides. The HealthBus relies on donations and grants to fund the project.
Q: There are lots of other organisations helping the Homeless – what makes your service different?
The HealthBus is unique because it takes the service to Rough Sleepers. Specialist GP services and other health provision such as Liver Specialist Nurses, Community Nurse, Mental Health Worker and Drug and Alcohol Support Worker as well as an Optician are provided. The HealthBus co-locates with St. Mungo’s and other agencies to support clients getting into accommodation.
Q: Do you work in partnership with other organisations to address the issue of homelessness in a strategic and joined up way?
The HealthBus is developing and strengthening working partnerships with other providers of homeless services and accommodation to facilitate the best outcomes and champion best practice in healthcare and wellbeing. We have forged strong links with local services; some of whom are co-located with the HealthBus during our outreach session; which improves shared care and outcomes for the homeless.
Q: What does the HealthBus need?
The HealthBus needs core stability to operate. With a vision to reach other areas in Dorset we need to funds to grow and develop the service further.
Q: How will I know my contribution is making a difference?
Your entire contribution will help us take healthcare to the streets. The HealthBus provides a vital lifeline to vulnerable and needy rough sleepers.
Q: If the HealthBus was not operating in Bournemouth what would happen?
Put simply, lives would be lost on the streets of Bournemouth without the HealthBus.
A significant number of patients would not be able to access mainstream medical provision including mental health services. From the homeless person’s perspective of view they would be denied the opportunity to engage with professionals who understand them and their complex needs.
‘’The HealthBus saved my life. Without it I would probably die as I couldn’t get to the Surgery.’’ (HealthBus patient, 2017)