Dr Zahid Chauhan OBE - Guest Blog
Service was the spark that got me fired-up
Dr Zahid Chauhan OBE, Founder of Homeless-Friendly
“I read recently of the memorial service held in London to honour the 116 homeless people who died last year https://bit.ly/3wTn6xs
Each one of these fatalities has a desperately sad human story behind it, and I agree with Housing Justice that the figures are a gross underestimation (1).
Absolutely avoidable deaths
As a GP, I know that rough sleepers perish from hyperthermia, dehydration and even more shamefully, malnutrition.
They have low immune system and so are suspectable to infections. Poor nutrition means brittle bones and terrible coordination, resulting in fatal falls. Heart conditions are the biggest killer.
The temporary accommodation some live in – and I include a family who resided in a tent because their roof was so dilapidated and a young man whose mealtime guests at his broken table were rats – is equally diabolical.
Poor housing can be a significant fire hazard. Lax landlords who fail to ensure safe electricals must take responsibility for assisting in preventing deaths.
And then there are homeless people who are assaulted and yes it has occurred, arson against the person committed by fellow rough sleepers or offenders, for whom I have no words.
Fire in the belly
I formed Homeless-Friendly after I saw a rough sleeper pull out his own teeth with a pair of pliers. My anger was palpable and as a medic, I wanted to make sure homeless people received far better healthcare than that. I also knew that if rough sleepers engaged with us, we could signpost them to other services that would enable them to rebuild their lives.
I am delighted that the Merseyside Violence Reduction Partnership is working with Merseyside Fire and Rescue to see how big the problem of arson and accidental fires amongst the homeless community are. This will afford them the opportunity of an open dialogue with society’s most vulnerable group and present them with new opportunities. I cannot overstate how important an olive branch is in reminding the homeless that someone cares.
The average life expectancy of a street sleeper is just 43-years-of-age. Poor health and ever-present violence ensure this. For me, curing this horror is all about us working together as medics, social workers, fire, police, and other partner agency staff.
The work the MVRP is doing is a glorious opportunity to not only snuff out the scourge of violence but also remind the homeless that they are valued within our society.”
Several Merseyside organisations have pledged to examine their policies and procedures and become Homeless-Friendly. If you would like to join them, visit https://bit.ly/3wUIF0s