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Homeless in London given beds to recover after leaving hospital

The Salvation Army is stepping in to provide support to people leaving hospital who don't have a home to go to.

Medical and support staff make sure people who don't have a home to go to can recover at The Salvation Army building. Image credit: Salvation Army.

Recovering from Covid after a hospital stay can be a long process, and persisting symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, body aches, headache and fever. But what if you don’t have a home to go to when you are discharged?

The Salvation Army is stepping in to fill the gap for some of London’s homeless population, providing temporary housing for rough sleepers who no longer need to be in hospital but are too clinically vulnerable to go out on the street.

Five rooms and a shared kitchen have been made available for the purpose at the charity’s St Ann’s building in Westminster, with the hope of more beds in the future. 

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Alison Smith, The Salvation Army’s service manager at St Ann’s, said: “The residents at St Ann’s may have been sleeping rough, or for some reason their previous accommodation is unsuitable for their needs.

“St Ann’s is here to act as a stepping stone out of hospital until suitable accommodation is found and their health has improved meaning they can move elsewhere.”

A specialist NHS nurse and housing worker from a nearby homeless health team will visit patients twice a week to offer support with health concerns and assist with moving residents on to longer-term housing, the charity said.

According to charity Crisis, 78 per cent of homeless people report having a physical health condition compared to 37 per cent of the general population. There are calls for homeless people to be given priority access to the Covid vaccine due to the health inequalities they face. 

Sally, who found out she had lost her home while in hospital for six weeks with kidney problems, said she was grateful for the support from staff who were “good people and well-organised”.

“My hope for the future is that I will get a kidney transplant, and then I would like to work to help other people, I would like to work for a charity,” the 61-year-old said.

Tessa James, a clinical nurse specialist with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Homeless Health Team, which provide some of the ongoing support, said: “This is a fantastic service that ensures that some of our most vulnerable patients avoid being discharged to the streets after a hospital stay. 

“Many of the patients are clinically vulnerable due to conditions like kidney failure and are unlikely to survive sleeping rough.

“By giving people a safe place to live we can continue to provide the care they need, like dressing wounds, while encouraging them to take an active role in managing their health. 

“We signpost people to the services that can give them ongoing support including legal and housing support and alcohol and drug services. In doing so we can support people to get back on their feet and make a fresh start.” 

The Salvation Army said it hoped to offer more beds to those leaving hospital in the future.

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