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Birmingham and Solihull Mental health NHS Foundation Trust
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Health and homelessness

Published: 18/09/2014

Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust is supporting the homeless charity SIFA Fireside on Friday, 10 October by sponsoring a lunch for homeless people. This year, 10 October marks both World Homeless Day and World Mental Health Day.

The mental health trust and homeless charity have a long established partnership for the benefit of Birmingham’s homeless community and the event will showcase some of their work and incorporate the launch of two important reports on homelessness and a new information leaflet on local services available for the homeless.

The reports are SIFA Fireside’s Impact Report for 2013/14 and the evaluation of its ground-breaking initiative Reintegration & Reconnection, working with homeless migrants from Central and Eastern Europe and which was funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government. 

In addition, BSMHFT will launch its new information leaflet detailing local health, care and accommodation services available for homeless people. The Trust will also present its Harvest Festival food collection to SIFA Fireside for distribution among the homeless community.

Cath Gilliver, Chief Executive of SIFA Fireside said: “We’re absolutely delighted that BSMHFT has chosen to demonstrate their practical support for SIFA Fireside, both by sponsoring the event and through the donation of their Harvest Festival food collection.  BSMHFT are valued partners and we’re looking forward to celebrating this important day together.”

She added that the event on 10 October was the culmination of a week of activities to mark Health and Homelessness and raise awareness and funds for the local charity.

John Short, Chief Executive of Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are delighted to host this lunch which will not only be of practical help to homeless people on these special days but will help raise awareness of the ongoing important work our two organisations are doing to support the homeless community locally.

“A very high percentage of people who are homeless have mental ill health as well as a significant physical health problem. However, because they are homeless and struggle to access their GP practice, many find it difficult to get the primary and secondary healthcare they need as well as lifestyle services.” 

BSMHFT’s community mental health team for homeless people provides a number of services at SIFA Fireside’s Digbeth centre, including:

Weekly mental health triage clinic offering assessment, referral and reconnection to other community mental health teams. The team provides a highly-valued link between statutory and more informal services as well as advice and support for SIFA Fireside staff.

The homeless primary care team provide a nurse to deliver a twice weekly primary care clinic at SIFA Fireside. The nurse assesses, prescribes and also encourages and facilitates GP registration for the clients.

Plus a pilot ‘Street Triage’ in partnership with West Midlands Police and West Midlands Ambulance Service to provide responsive and appropriate care to those in mental health crisis, avoiding their ending up in police custody or A&E.

SIFA Fireside has served an average 1,874 lunches and 1,144 breakfasts a month so far this year and sees an average of 131 people walk through the doors of their Digbeth centre each week day.

According to figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government, Birmingham City Council accepted 892 people as homeless in the three months up to June 2013. This compared with 119 in Manchester, 42 in Newcastle and 37 in Liverpool.  

Meanwhile, Homeless Link’s report, The Unhealthy State of Homelessness, published in July 2014 includes responses from almost 2,600 homeless people using services in 19 areas across England including Birmingham between January 2012 and March 2014. The results show that 80 per cent of homeless people surveyed have a mental health problem, with only 45 per cent having been formally diagnosed, while 73 per cent reported having a significant physical health problem, rising to 88 per cent of people in squats and 83 per cent of rough sleepers.

The results also indicate that 35 per cent had attended an accident and emergency department in the previous six months, and 26 per cent had been admitted to hospital.