The Local Homeless, Ill-Health & Hepatitis C

We had 55 people in this evening, the sessions seem to be reliably in the 50s every week, so this brings new challenges. The hall is not that big really so with 20 volunteers also is can seem pretty crowded. 

 

Julie cooked carrot and orange soup, Henry and Joes made the main meal of sausage and red pepper stew that was designed to go with roast potatoes and a variety of side dishes. The pudding was apricot and peach tart with custard. The side dishes are always put together from the ambient food that comes in each week this is usually a salad and vegetables. Last week we introduced roasted fennel to everyone and surprisingly it was enjoyed by most people who tried it. You always get people who come in each week and only eat Pot Noodles or beans on toast however over time the majority have come to trust our cooking so will try new dishes. 

Having the larger of numbers of people coming in each week now it is very intensive in the respect of people’s individual needs. Some people are happy just to come in eat and leave where others want to sit and chat. The variety of problems that our clients are experiencing are so varied that we have to be on our guard all the time at each session at the same time as showing kindness and compassion. Someone could walk through the door in crisis and with suicidal thoughts down to emotions of fear as they have just lost their job and frightened how they are going to pay their bills. Every person to us is just as important regardless of who they are and whatever their need is. We will always do our best to help in whatever way we are able and if we cannot help, we will signpost to someone or an organisation who can. 

Health of People Experiencing Homelessness

In 2017, over half of all deaths of people experiencing homelessness were due to 3 factors:

  • accidents, including drug poisoning, approximately 40%
  • suicides accounted for approximately 13%
  • diseases of the liver approximately 9%

People who sleep rough experience some of the most severe health inequalities and it is reported that they suffer much poorer health than the general population. A high percentage have all or some symptoms of mental ill health, substance misuse needs, physical health needs, and have experienced significant trauma in their lives.

Ill-health can be both a cause and consequence of homelessness, although it is not always identified as the trigger of homelessness. Ill health may contribute to job loss or relationship breakdown, which in turn can result in homelessness.

Homeless people usually have chronic and acute health issues above non-homeless individuals.  This can be explained by: 

  • exposure to poor living conditions
  • difficulty in maintaining personal hygiene
  • poor and irregular diet
  • drug and alcohol dependency 
  • high levels of stress and anxiety
  • Access to primary health care is also a major issue, many people sleeping rough report that they often have difficulty registering with a GP practice due to lack of a fixed address. 

Healthwatch West Berkshire have put together the cards below that can be given out to rough sleepers and homeless individuals. They provide information on charities and organisations that people who find themselves on the streets can access. These cards will also help a homeless individual get access to medical care and register with a GP practice without a fixed address. 

  • Compared with the general population, common mental health conditions (such as depression, anxiety and panic disorder) are over twice as high among people who experience homelessness, and psychosis is up to 15 times as high. Of the people seen sleeping rough in London in 2017 to 2018, 65% reported mental health issues. 

Drug and/or alcohol dependence can also be both a cause and consequence of homelessness. Those who are dependent on drugs or alcohol may struggle to retain accommodation due to financial unreliability, problems with behaviour or family relationship breakdown. Homelessness can also be the route to substance dependence.

 

This week a client came in to see us. We have known him since opening the Soup Kitchen. He was rough sleeping at the time and living in woodland locally. Due to physical issues he had when he was rough sleeping was extremely difficult and compounded all the problems that rough sleeping caused. What an enormous difference in three years, drug use was prolific, and his anxiety level were extreme. Now housed and more settled he is looking forward to a future and to work more and more with his rehabilitation.  He talked about his future plans and recognised that he has never been on holiday, never been on a plane, never been to the seaside.  We talked about space, travelling and the friends and family he had lost as a result of his years and years of drug use. He regretted so much but wanted to make amends as best he could. We laughed together and he became tearful as he talked about his family. What was important is that we could be there for him when he needed to talk to someone. 

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a virus that can infect the liver. If left untreated, it can sometimes cause serious and potentially life-threatening damage to the liver over many years.

But with modern treatments, it’s usually possible to cure the infection, and most people with it will have a normal life expectancy.

It’s estimated approximately 215,000 people in the UK have hepatitis C.

You can become infected with it if you come into contact with the blood of an infected person.

 

Symptoms of hepatitis C

Hepatitis C often does not have any noticeable symptoms until the liver has been significantly damaged. 

This means many people have the infection without realising it.

When symptoms do occur, they can be mistaken for another condition. 

 

Symptoms can include:

  • Flu like symptoms such as muscle aches and a high temperature and/or fever
  • feeling tired all the time general lethargy 
  • loss of appetite 
  • nausea or vomiting 
  • abdominal pain

Hepatitis C is difficult to spot so therefore the only way to make sure if a person has it or not is to get tested. 

How to contract hepatitis C?

The hepatitis C virus is usually spread through blood-to-blood contact. This can be done by:

  • sharing unsterilised needles – particularly needles used to inject recreational drugs  
  • sharing razors or toothbrushes 
  • from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby 
  • through unprotected sexual intercourse

In the UK, most hepatitis C infections happen in people who inject drugs or have injected them in the past. It’s estimated around half of those who inject drugs have the infection.

Hepatitis C can often be treated successfully by taking medicines for several weeks.

If the infection is diagnosed in the early stages, known as acute hepatitis, treatment may not need to begin straight away. Instead, you may have another blood test after a few months to see if your body fights off the virus. If the infection continues for several months, known as chronic hepatitis, treatment will usually be recommended.

Your treatment plan

Treatment for chronic hepatitis C (those infected for 6 months or more) involves:

  • tablets to fight the virus 
  • a test to see if your liver is damaged 
  • lifestyle changes to prevent further damage 

There are 6 main strains of the virus. In the UK, the most common strains are genotype 1 and genotype 3. You can be infected with more than 1 strain. You’ll be offered the medicine most appropriate for your type of hepatitis C. During treatment, you should have blood tests to check that your medicine is working. If it’s not, you may be advised to try another medicine. This will only affect a small number of people. Your doctor will also assess your liver for damage (scarring), either with a blood test or a scan called a fibroscan. At the end of your treatment, you’ll have a blood test to see if the virus has been cleared and a second blood test 12 or 24 weeks after treatment has stopped. If both tests show no sign of the virus, this means treatment has been successful. (ref: nhs)

Many of our client are going through the treatment for hepatitis C. We help if necessary to pay for a train ticket to hospital appointments. This helps remove some of the stress and anxiety especially if money is difficult to raise. 

Our Clients & Donations Needed

We are very touched that one of our clients who wrote a letter and put it in the NWN last week. Over time we build relationships with the people who come in and use Newbury Soup Kitchen services.  Our clients are very grateful and thankful for the support we give them. It is very humbling when gestures of kindness are shown in this way.  

Drug addicts, alcoholics and people with mental health issues are kind, generous and very keen to say thank you, showing compassion and concern towards each other or our volunteers.  When people have nothing, they still find time to show expressions of kindness. Putting each other up to give someone respite from sleeping in a tent when the weather is very cold or wet. Inviting a person who is rough sleeping a shower or a meal. Keeping an eye out that someone is safe. This Community stick together and care for each other as best as they can. 

We are in need of biodegradable plates for the Soup Kitchen. We have put them on our wish list along with other items we require. https://amzn.to/2fYwyJz

 

Thank you for your continued support, all financial donations and donations of practical items help the Soup Kitchen and the people we help so much. 

 

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