THE HEAD of a Cornish homelessness charity has said a new £149,000 scheme to prevent hospital readmissions could help prolong the lives of the county’s rough sleepers.
The average life expectancy of a street homeless person is currently just 42 years – but Steve Ellis, of Truro-based St Petroc’s Society, believes this could soon change, thanks to a government grant.
His organisation has been handed £65,000 to draw up a multi-agency plan to help prevent homeless hospital patients being sent back onto the streets after they receive treatment.
In addition, Cornwall Council has also received £84,000 to fund the provision of flats in Truro, Bodmin and Redruth to house at-risk people once they are discharged from hospital.
Currently, homeless people are more than six times more likely to need emergency hospital treatment than those with homes, while up to 70 per cent are discharged back onto the streets with no thought for their housing needs.
Mr Ellis said it was vital to “break the cycle” of homelessness by ensuring on-going care and accommodation was available to vulnerable people.
He said: “The award of this grant is fantastic news for Cornwall and will allow St Petroc's to work jointly with our colleagues in Cornwall Council and the health service to ensure that anyone leaving hospital will not return to being street homeless, and will receive the best possible after-care.
“We’ve got to break the cycle and make sure people are given every opportunity to get somewhere secure to live.”
He said the grant would help fund a full-time worker dedicated to preventing the discharge of people from hospital onto the streets, which at present happens on average every few weeks.
Almost every week someone is discharged from hospital without the support they need to maintain access or support their tenancy.
Felicity Owen, director of Public Health Cornwall, said: “We are delighted that this money has come to Cornwall and to be working in partnership with St Petroc’s to develop the hospital discharge homelessness prevention protocol. There are between 50 and 90 rough sleepers in Cornwall, and many of these people are admitted to hospital, often more than once across the space of a year.”
Judith Haycock, Cornwall Council’s cabinet member for health and adult care, added: “In today’s society, it is not acceptable that people are leaving hospital with no plans in place to address their on-going care needs. Breaking the cycle of homeless people becoming ill, being admitted to hospital, recovering, returning to the streets and falling ill again, is an important part of caring for these people. Producing and implementing this protocol, and the provision of the three flats, is going to be key to achieving this.”
Public Health, part of Cornwall Council, spearheaded the bid for the government grant.
They worked alongside Coastline Housing, Cornwall Council (Housing and Adult Care, Health and Well Being), Cornwall Housing, Pentreath, NHS Kernow, Peninsula Community Health, Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust, Cornwall Foundation Partnership Trust, Inclusion Cornwall, Faith Forum, Shelter and St Petroc’s.
A total of £10 million has been awarded by the Department of Health’s Homeless Hospital Discharge Fund, across 52 projects in the UK.