Thames Reach
Monday 27 March 2017
Keyword Search
.

Tower Hamlets homelessness service transformed by mental health expertise

Fatima Taylor,
Fatima Taylor, a nurse specialising in mental health, is playing a vital role in ensuring some of society's most vulnerable homeless people with serious and enduring mental health problems get the treatment they need to get better.

A service helping people sleeping rough to escape homelessness from the streets of Tower Hamlets has been transformed thanks to the addition of a nurse specialising in mental health treatment.


The Thames Reach Tower Hamlets Street Outreach Response Team (SORT) has had an approved mental health professional (AHMP) attached to the team for the past 15 months now thanks to funding from the Tower Hamlets local authority.


Fatima Taylor, a nurse specialising in mental health, is playing a vital role in ensuring some of society’s most vulnerable homeless people with serious and enduring mental health problems get the treatment they need to get better.


A recent report on homelessness in the capital indicated that 45% of London’s rough sleepers have a mental health problem.


Historically, many mental health services in England had a tendency to view rough sleeping as a lifestyle choice – very much at odds with local authorities strong safeguarding policies on vulnerable adults in housing or care – but in recent years attention has shifted to the many undiagnosed mental illnesses such as paranoid schizophrenia which have triggered individual’s descent to living on the streets.


Fatima has the authority as an AHMP to conduct mental health assessments and if necessary to order the compulsory detention or ‘section’ of an individual in a psychiatric hospital so that they can get treatment.


Fatima explained how this helped transform the live of a very vulnerable individual.


*David spent nearly ten years living in a tent on a patch of wasteland in Bow. Although known to local residents, his predicament was only brought to the attention of Tower Hamlets SORT a year ago.


A concerned resident got in touch – you can contact the service at 020 7084 6680/1 or towerhamletssort@thamesreach.org.uk– and staff went out to the site to investigate.


David, however, refused all offers of help and concerns emerged over his mental health.


Fatima said: “His clothing was in tatters and he didn’t have any trousers. He hadn’t washed in years and his hair had become matted.


She added: “Concerned staff kept an eye out for him but David only emerged from his tent in the middle of the night for an hour every day to rummage through rubbish bins in a bid to find something to eat. He had absolutely no contact with any other human beings and was completely isolated. He had none of the social interactions we all take for granted. Something was clearly very wrong.”


Doctors, police officers outreach staff and Fatima arranged an operation to section David and take him to a hospital ward in a psychiatric unit of a hospital.


The operation was very stressful for everybody with David, distressed and running around the wasteland in tears before being taken away for treatment.


A spell in hospital followed where David was diagnosed with a rare form of paranoid schizophrenia.


Following a short spell of treatment, David is now housed and learning simple skills such as cooking as he learns how to look after himself better.


Fatima said: “This Christmas David got in touch. He’s doing well now and he asked what he could do to thank the SORT team for not giving up on him.


“We’ve all learnt from this and want to ensure that people going untreated and living in squalor for a decade, will never happen again.”


Jude Cross, Thames Reach’s area director for outreach, said: “It is best practice in a number of overseas countries for a psychologist or psychiatrist to be attached to outreach teams. Our experience of operating with a mental health specialist has been very successful and could well be replicated elsewhere in England.”


*David’s name has been changed to protect his identity