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News New project to help the homeless during COVID-19 and beyond

New research will investigate the impact of COVID-19 on those experiencing homelessness

The impact of Covid-19 and associated lockdown will be particularly severe for people experiencing homelessness. This group suffer a high prevalence of chronic conditions, often share living spaces, have poor access to health care and rely on support services which have been under enormous pressure.

Christopher Gidlow, Professor of Applied Health Research

A new National Lottery funded project is underway to investigate the impact of COVID-19 on homeless people in Stoke-on-Trent and identify how they can be better supported in future.

The collaborative project involves researchers from Staffordshire University’s Centre of Health and Development (CHAD), VOICES and Expert Citizens. The findings, to be shared with Public Health England, will be used to make recommendations for immediate and post-crisis support.

Professor Christopher Gidlow is helping to lead the project. He explained: “The impact of Covid-19 and associated lockdown will be particularly severe for people experiencing homelessness. This group suffer a high prevalence of chronic conditions, often share living spaces, have poor access to health care and rely on support services which have been under enormous pressure.

“There has been unprecedented government investment to allow local authorities to house and provide support for people sleeping rough. But we need to understand how government policy to mitigate risks to homeless populations, manifests locally. This project aims to understand the impact on, and support for, people experiencing homelessness both during and after COVID-19. We are in phase one of a two stage project to see how the situation changes over the next 8-12 months.”

Using Stoke-on-Trent as a case study, the project team will conduct interviews locally, regionally and nationally. Expert Citizens will help to carry out the interviews with people experiencing homelessness. Expert Citizens organise volunteers who have all experienced multiple needs including mental ill health, homelessness, addiction and offending behaviour. They use their unique skills and experiences to be a voice for others and have established rapport and trust.

Professor Gidlow hopes that communicating the findings as quickly as possible will spur immediate action to help those who are homeless. Recommendations will be shared widely with national policy makers and other voluntary and professional bodies who can advocate, amplify and use the research findings.

Andy Meakin, Project Director for VOICES which is a local partnership project led by Brighter Futures, said: “Once the lockdown was announced, both national and local government responded assertively. Working with local organisations, the Council quickly accommodated more than 150 people who were street homeless or in settings where physical distancing was too hard to maintain. We are delighted to be working with CHAD to understand the impact of COVID-19 on the people and systems involved in homelessness and the policy implications for the future.”

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