St Mungo’s urges “systemic” change in healthcare provision for people experiencing homelessness following the successful joint working of ‘Everyone In’

Leading homeless charity St Mungo’s has made recommendations to the Government so street homelessness can be recognised as public health priority, as well as a housing issue.

Today (Thursday 26 August) St Mungo’s Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer Emma Cookson spoke at a virtual webinar organised by the National Housing Federation (NHF) exploring how successful partnership working between supported housing services and the NHS has transformed healthcare outcomes for people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic.

Emma spoke about St Mungo’s achievements during the ‘Everyone In’ initiative to improve the health and wellbeing of the homeless population – working in partnership with the NHS and other agencies to reduce the health inequalities faced by people who are sleeping rough, and ultimately save lives.

Attendees heard that St Mungo’s has so far supported more than 4,000 people who were sleeping rough to isolate safely in hotels or emergency accommodation, and about the charity’s recommendation that homelessness should be recognised as a housing issue and major public health priority.

Studies show that at least 266 deaths were avoided during the first wave of the pandemic among England’s homeless population, which Emma credited to “recognising and treating rough sleeping like the public health emergency it is” and an “investment in partnership working”.

This follows last month’s interim report by the Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping which also urged the Government to treat street homelessness as a public health and housing priority and promote increased engagement from the health sector.

At today’s webinar, Emma stressed that there is more work to be done to ensure these changes are “systemic” and make sure the principles of partnership working become the norm.

Key recommendations in the discussion included:

  • That rough sleeping continues to be treated as a public health priority.
  • To continue partnership working.
  • Investment in prevention.
  • Providing long-term accommodation that can meet a range of needs, with tailored provision for women and young people.
  • Effective vaccine delivery for people experiencing homelessness, which must include building trust in the healthcare system.

Emma Cookson, St Mungo’s Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer, said: “It’s important we work together to make sure the good practice we’ve seen during ‘Everyone In’ isn’t just a flash in the pan. This approach should now be built into the system and become a legacy, rather than just a footnote.

“We know that people experiencing homelessness suffer from extreme health inequalities and poor health is both a cause and consequence of homelessness. It’s nonsensical and dangerous that they are seen as being completely distinct.

“We’ve heard via submissions to the Kerslake Commission that many of the positive changes from ‘Everyone In’ were made despite, rather than because of, the system. In our final report next month, we’ll be making recommendations to help this work become fully embedded.”

The Kerslake Commission’s final report will be published in September. St Mungo’s has previously published a report – Housing and health: working together to respond to rough sleeping during Covid-19 – focusing on the health of people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic.

Today’s event also comes ahead of Starts at Home Day (Friday 3 September), a national day of action where NHF members and supporters will celebrate the value of supported housing, the contribution of staff towards saving lives during the pandemic and invite local MPs and stakeholders to visit schemes and recognise their impact.