Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Helping the Homeless.

This week I'm going to be writing about a topic which is close to my heart. I have a real passion and desire to work with the socially excluded groups of people in society. Whether that means offenders, drug and substance addicts, sex workers or the homeless. I feel that part of Gods purpose for my life is to work with these kinds of people.

I have been really encouraged over the past couple of months to see more articles and discussion about Occupational Therapy and the Homeless featured in both the BJOT and OTnews. Today I want to explore a bit more the situation in the UK with regards to Homelessness and how OT can make an impact on individuals who could really benefit from help and encouragement.

Although there are no official statistics due to the nature of homelessness some facts and data are as follows:

  • Rough sleeping is the most visible and extreme manifestation of homelessness, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Government street counts and estimates give a snapshot of the situation in England. In 2012 they estimated around 2,309 people slept rough on any one night which is a rise of 31 per cent since 2010. 
  • Statistics from Crisis UK (UK homeless charity) state that around 5,678 people slept rough at some point in London during 2011/12, an increase of 43 per cent on the previous year's total of 3,975. 
  • Of rough sleepers in London: 88 per cent are male, 71 per cent are white. 58 per cent are aged 26-45 years and 11 per cent are under 25. 11 per cent of rough sleepers in London have been in care, 10 per cent have been in the armed forces and 34 per cent have been in prison.
  • On average homeless people die at just 47 years old. 
  • Homeless people are 13 times more likely to be a victim of violent crime. 
  • 97% of homeless people want to work but only 2% work full time. 
Homelessness is about more than not having a roof over your head. A home is not just a physical space, it also has a legal and social dimension. A home provides roots, identity, a sense of belonging and a place of emotional wellbeing. Homelessness is about the loss of all of these. It is an isolating and destructive experience and homeless people are some of the most vulnerable and socially excluded in our society.

After years of declining trends, 2010 marked the turning point when all forms of homelessness began to rise in the UK. However, it is reported that homelessness has significantly increased further as an effect of the economic downturn, cuts to housing benefit and other reforms all start to have an profound impact on individuals and families.

What can OT do to help??

An Occupational Therapist enables people to achieve maximum levels of independence through developing personal & domestic skills, community integration, social & communication skills, leisure & recreational skills, work skills and practical coping skills. Therefore they are perfectly trained to work with the homeless population.

From reading some of the publications in the BJOT and OTnews (references can be found below) I have put together some key bullet points on example areas of intervention for OTs working with the homeless. 

  • Teaching individuals skills for independent living - including budgeting, activities of daily living, cooking skills, healthy eating etc.
  • Developing social skills and helping individuals integrate back into society in a pro-social way. 
  • Restructuring their occupational balance, developing their use of time and the occupations which they engage in.
  • Promoting integration back into the working world. 
  • Developing motivation, establishing and promoting self esteem and a sense of purpose and self efficacy. 
  • Utilising grading and adapting techniques to help work with individuals at a pace which works for them.
  • Relaxation skills. 
  • Helping individuals to engage in hobbies, activities and meaningful occupations to them.
These are just a few ideas and I am sure there are many more fantastic ways which OTs are working with this group of society. 
If you have any more information about this area of OT - whether you work with the homeless of know of people/organisations who incorporate OT in their work then I would love to hear about it.

Whether you are an OT or not, there are many ways how you can help the homeless community. I'm certainly going to look into what I can do in my local area and I encourage you all to do the same. 

Happy OTuesday. 
Kate :).

References: - The national charity for single homeless people. 

Hocken Y (2012) "Developing an outreach approach" OTnews 20(12)pp. 35

Parmenter V, Fieldhouse J and Barham R. (2013) "An Occupational Therapy Intervention Service to hostels for homeless people: an overview." BJOT 76(5) pp. 242-245.

Redman G, (2012) "Filling a gap in service provision" OTnews 20(8) pp. 42.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kate,
    I just started looking through your blog on my hunt for more info relating OT work in forensics and mental health. I'm currently in the works of applying for OT school. Could I contact you via email to discuss your experiences in mental health further? I've been working as a bachelor's level social worker for the past few years and my goal would be working in a community-based setting. Like you, I'm interested in any of the fringe populations and I'd ideally work with individuals with severe mental illness.