Council gives hospital rough sleepers in east London ‘routes back to roots’

Rough sleeper on the streets

Rough sleeper on the streets - Credit: Sam Mellish

A pioneering council scheme that stops homeless patients in hospital going back on the streets in London’s East End has prevented 36 people so far having to ‘sleep rough’ again when they’re discharged. The project originally launched in 2012 has found housing for them as well as helping other patients get emergency accommodation through friends and family and also assisting homeless European nationals back to their countries.

Outreach worker Angela Shipgood meets rough sleeper Wayne Darby on the streets

Outreach worker Angela Shipgood meets rough sleeper Wayne Darby on the streets - Credit: Outreach

Now Tower Hamlets Council has released a Routes Home for Homeless Patients report this week which is being sent to other local authorities and to NHS trusts up and down the country.

“We want them to learn from our approach and help us tackle homelessness,” Mayor John Biggs said. “This report shows how we are working with other local authorities and the Royal London Hospital, which has a positive impact on these peoples’ lives.”

The project has halved rough sleeping among known homeless people in east London and has also made sure no-one else ends up on the streets who hasn’t experienced rough sleeping before.

It is run for the council by the Providence Row charity in Spitalfields, which tackles causes of homelessness.

The charity’s chief Pam Orchard said: “Recovery is a time when homeless people in hospital may be open to change with a motivation to get their life back on track.

“But this momentum for rehabilitation is easily lost without tangible rehousing choices.”

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A trial scheme at the Royal London in Whitechapel began in 2013—first reported in the East London Advertiser—where all welfare needs were assessed before patients were discharged, such as social, medical, housing and psychological, to reduce chances of being re-admitted with the same medical problems if they end up back on the streets.

It aimed at bridging “the gulf between primary, secondary, social and housing care” with the hospital’s Homeless team holding weekly meetings with hostels, housing officers, social workers and community, psychiatric and alcohol liaison nurses where patients’ care plans were worked out.

Jim Bowes, a construction worker, became homeless at 43 when he had to stop work as a hod-carrier on building sites in 2013 after a broken cartilige.

“Doctors couldn’t do the operation because I was living on the streets and had nowhere to go after surgery,” he explained. “I didn’t have a clean place to get better—the risk of infection was too great.”

He was one of 250 patients involved in a trial that year which helped dozens of vulnerable patients get back on their feet.

Tower Hamlets council was also given £330,000 by Whitehall last Christmas to run a “rapid intensive response” project with neighbouring Hackney council and the City Corporation to put people from other parts of London who end up on the streets of the East End back in touch with their roots.