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Homelessness is leading to a health crisis

Two hundred and eight-two thousand people are considered homeless in England, and the problem is predicted to get worse as 1.7million households could be pushed into homelessness this winter due to the cost of living crisis.

The grim forecast shared by homeless charity Crisis brings to light the reality of the homelessness emergency the UK is facing this winter. Considering the severity of the issue, and the number of families who could be facing destitution this Christmas, Joe Spence, a doctoral researcher from the University of Kent and co-director of a new film which exposes the reality of homeless people suffering disease, explains that that homelessness is also leading to a health crisis. 

He said: ‘Emergency accommodation is a minefield that many people arriving off the streets aren't able to navigate, and so they find themselves evicted and often even more deeply entrenched. As an alternative, housing first initiatives, with intensive wrap around support, have been shown to be more effective. Housing first takes on the principle that before somebody can address an addiction, or other health issues, they first need a stable, secure, properly furnished, and permanent space to rebuild from.’

Last year alone, more than 1,200 people in the UK died while homeless. The challenges that are faced by homeless people who become unwell with diseases such as tuberculosis are depicted within Joe’s new three-part feature length film From the Cubby, which is co-directed with Nick Chamberlain – the protagonist of the film.

Nick said: ‘Our homeless communities should be given options. Person-centred support should be provided for as long as it is needed, and people should have opportunities to tailor services to their needs. To my mind, many people with experiences of homelessness are also experts of their own lives, and therefore should be included in decision making process.’

Based on five years of documenting a community in Kent which suffered from an outbreak of microbacterium africanem (a strain of tuberculosis) in 2017, From the Cubby demonstrates tuberculosis’ enduring and escalating threat to public health, the social contexts that help it to thrive, and the broader challenges of eradicating it globally.

Nick and Joe created the three-part documentary film to propose and advocate towards new health and social care interventions to better protect those sleeping rough, including the ‘Housing First’ principles for people who have experience homelessness, which champions stability as the first port of call for supporting homeless people with chronic health and social care needs.

The film makers are also encouraging that new approach is taken to the addiction problem associated with homelessness by implementing harm reduction interventions for drug users such as supervised injection centres, which aim to reduce the acute risks of disease transmission through unhygienic injecting.

Part 1 of From the Cubby ­- ‘The Travellers Tale’ – was launched at Kent’s Canterbury campus on Friday 9 December. From the Cubby is directed by Joe Spence and Nick Chamberlain, whose personal experience of tuberculosis disease and homelessness is featured in the film itself.

Earlier this year a research and development screening was hosted at Canterbury Cathedral, which was attended by 150 guests representing 40 organisations from across Kent. Since the screening the From the Cubby production team have been developing the series in line with the feedback from stakeholders and participating organisations.

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Last Updated: 13-Dec-2022