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.
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.
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.
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
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.
explained how this helped transform the live of a very vulnerable individual.
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.
resident got in touch – you can contact the service at 020 7084 6680/1 or firstname.lastname@example.org– and staff went out to the site to investigate.
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.”
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