12 July 2021

The Homeless Outreach Service, part of the ELFT Primary Care directorate, was set up to work across east London in April 2020, commissioned as part of the drive to get homeless people off the streets in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,  

Cooperative working across different teams and services has been key to how the service functions since then. 

The service has developed strong links with other local health providers and authorities, taking a holistic approach to care which means supporting people in multiple ways, across health, care and housing.

The service has engaged with over 700 homeless people, refugees and asylum seekers across City & Hackney, Newham and Tower Hamlets during this time. 

Dr. Stefan Struebind explains how the team work to support some of the most vulnerable people in our communities: 

“Providing continuity, building trust and providing a safe setting is key to how we can support clients. 

“We don’t want to see people living rough. The support we give is ultimately geared towards getting people off the streets. 

“Working with staff in homeless hostels forms a big part of what we do. 

“By taking a multi-agency approach, working with a wide variety of organisations across all our boroughs means we can share knowledge and expertise and so put in place consistent and structured ways to support people. 

“Basic needs such as shelter, food and hygiene are addressed.  

“As a result, peoples’ lives becomes more ordered. 

“These interventions have a calming effect on residents and allow space for a less chaotic or erratic experience of daily life. 

“People can feel more empowered to address some of the bigger challenges in their lives, such as alcohol dependency or drug abuse. 

“By responding to queries directly with patients we can have a really positive impact – these are people who would have been difficult to engage with otherwise.  

Another important part of the work the service performs is supporting people who are homeless to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. 

The Outreach service assists with a programme in each borough to increase the COVID-19 vaccination uptake.  

In City and Hackney the team speak to patients, gather consent data and work with peer-to-peer services such as Groundswell to increase uptake, particularly amongst asylum seekers. 

Similarly, in Tower Hamlets they assist the GP Care Group and visit vaccination sites in an outreach setting, including hotels and multiple occupation housing. We also do a lot of work around improving uptake with rough sleepers. 

Stefan continues: “Across Newham we coordinate drop-in clinics and follow up clinics. Building and maintaining trust amongst people is crucial to this work.  

"By working alongside organisations such as Doctors of the World and Migrant Health we can ensure that a coordinated care approach is delivered at each location we work at to support asylum seekers. 

“We constantly ensure that there is a plan for each individual patient in place. Each service being responsible for the patient receiving better care. 

“Making sure every agency is on the right page to support the people we care for is so important.”