It is proved that health gets worse in situations of poverty. For that reason, it’s important to broaden the discussion with health workers, in order to improve the approach to certain situations. In this context, the condition of a homeless person must be taken into account from the first day a person is admitted in a hospital until the last, in order to prevent the person being discharged without considering this condition of homelessness. Medicines prescribed by doctors should also be affordable to everybody.
Living on the street increases health risks and damages it in a rapid way.
The life expectancy for a homeless person is 58 years; 79% of homeless people in Barcelona have between one and three chronic disorders.
People who live on the street suffer unequal opportunities in the access to the right to health and to health services and they normally are admitted through hospitals’ A&E services. Homeless immigrants in an illegal situation are those who suffer more infringements.
In Barcelona, every year the ESMESS team attends an average of 250 rough sleepers or people living in shelters who suffer from serious mental ilness.
The main objective of Arrels is that homeless people reach the highest level of autonomy possible.
What does Arrels do to improve the health of homeless people?
I haven’t got my health insurance card
Commonly, homeless people haven’t got a health insurance card nor any documentation because they’ve lost it or they’ve been robbed. Being with them enables the documentation to be applied for again and access to health services achieved.
Going to the doctor
Despite all the health issues they deal with, homeless people usually lose contact with the health services. Arrels serves as a bridge and accompanies them to medical centres, hospitals and specialised centres in the support and treatment of drug-addiction. Only last year, 1.643 visits were made to the health network.
I’m not alone in hospital
Everybody likes to be visited when they are in hospital. To this end, a team of volunteers is specifically devoted to visit and support homeless people in hospitals both temporarily or long term. Such a simple thing as bringing them a comb or pyjamas, giving them a book or magazine as a present and offering some company cheers up the person.
Some homeless people suffer serious mental health problems, such as schizophrenia, psychotic disorder and alcohol-related dementia. The Arrels team is not staffed with psychiatrists, but collaborates with the regular health network and with the ESMESS team (a mental health programme addressed to homeless people in Barcelona). The entity also supports people with serious alcohol addictions; in these cases, harm reduction is promoted, respecting the pace of the people.
Having a home improves health
Some people attended suffer two or more disorders, such as mental disease and alcoholism, and they can’t find a place to recover. In these cases the Residence Pere Barnés comes into play, being a place which houses people with a fagile state of health while a place in a specialised centre is looked for. On the other hand, it’s clear that having a home improves health: it’s not the same having an alcohol relapse on the street than living in a flat because the damage suffered by the person decreases.
First aid kit
The majority of people attended need medical treatments prescribed by a doctor. Arrels administers the medicines which a person needs.
Music, massages and flowers of Bach
Music, massages and flowers of Bach have become a good ally for the wellbeing of homeless people in Arrels. Through the association Adama and their workshops on Flowers of Bach and massages, homeless people come across natural therapies and relaxing moments which allows them to recover step by step. The music activity has lead to the creation of a musical band, The KU3. Moreover, the benefits go further than that as social relationships are fostered and emotions expressed by a group of people with serious cognitive damage.