Caring for our community

19 September 2023

Did you know that Oxford has the tenth highest number of rough sleepers per 100,000 people in all of England according to recent government data?

Accessing palliative and end of life care can be particularly difficult for people experiencing homelessness. At Sobell House, we know that everyone deserves the same dignity, care, and choice no matter what their circumstances are. That’s why we have a dedicated team of health and support staff to share their expertise and best practices with local GPs, hostels, and outreach services to help homeless people who may benefit from palliative care get the support they need.

One particular area of focus for our team has been giving local hostels and GPs the information to know how and when to refer a homeless patient to Sobell House. This referral process is very important, as it means we can treat patients earlier on in their illness, and help to improve their quality of life in their final months or years of life, rather than crisis-led care in their final weeks or days.

Crucially, this also helps to give patients more choice about where they are when they die. A hospice or hospital is not always the preferred place of care, and so we have been working with hostels to set up procedures to deliver specialist care and equipment within temporary housing if this is where a patient would prefer to be. For many people living in temporary accomodation, they have structure and support networks in place – such as particular outreach or food services they rely on – and it’s up to us to ensure these familiar structures can remain in place during a turbulent time.

After speaking to people who are currently or have previously been homeless, another challenge our team is working to solve is how people with no home can leave a legacy behind. A common worry people have is that there will be no trace left of them after they die. Our services such as music and art therapy can help people to create a legacy, whether that’s by recording a piece of music or documenting their life story, and it’s our goal to ensure future patients are referred to Sobell House early enough in their diagnosis to benefit from services like these.

In the future, we are looking to expand the training we can provide to homelessness outreach workers around end of life and palliative care and also to conduct research to ensure that the services we offer reflect the wants and needs of people who are vulnerably housed.

This ongoing and vital work is partly funded by our charity. Thank you to our incredible supporters for helping us to provide every person in our community with care, kindness, and dignity when they need it most.

Pictured: Tina, Nicole and Jane from the team.