HOMELESS people who have been treated in hospital will be given a safe place to stay thanks to a charity which hopes to reduce the number of people dying after being discharged onto the streets.
Homeless charity Stonepillow officially opened the first hospital discharge lodge for homeless people in West Sussex on Tuesday (March 3).
The five-bed lodge is located next door to the 10-bed St Joseph’s night shelter, in Hunston Road, Chichester, and will ensure vulnerable people who are recovering from treatment and are not able to stay with lots of other people in the hostel, have a safe place to stay.
Ms Johnston Johnston, the charity’s chief executive, said last year the charity found accommodation for 80 people who were discharged from hospital.
“I’m really proud to be able to offer this to West Sussex.
“The number of homeless people who use the hospital is four times more than any other member of the public.
“It costs the NHS £80m every year to treat homeless people.
“This will save the NHS an awful lot of money because there’s a vital link between housing and health.”
The £300,000 project was funded by Chichester District Council and the government.
It will provide disabled access bedrooms and it will be more appropriate for people suffering from mental health problems who find it difficult to be around lots of people.
Ms Johnston said the average homeless woman would die at the age of 43 and the average homeless man would die at the age of 47, which showed how much homelessness affected people’s health.
The project was set up after central government conducted research which found that the majority of hospitals were not even aware of which patients were homeless let alone ensuring that they had a safe place to recover after being discharged.
Stonepillow will work directly with St Richard’s to ensure homeless patients go straight to the new lodge where they will receive rehabilitation support.
Amanda Jupp, chairman of West Sussex County Council, said she was proud to support the project.
“I think it’s a wonderful organisation,” she said.
“I think the staff here are inspirational.”
She added that she and her husband had taken part in the charity’s big sleep out event last year which involved people sleeping on the street to raise awareness of homelessness.
“The fact that we could come home and I could wash my hair really made me think how difficult it must be for those who do it every night.”
A new footbridge is currently being built over the A27 near Whyke Roundabout. This will allow people to access the shelter from the town centre without risking their lives.
“Ms Johnston said: “Since 2002 there have been far more deaths than I want to remember.
“I’m excited about the footbridge because people will be safe trying to reach safety and that’s just amazing.
“It’s been a nightmare for us over the years making sure people were safe.”
Ms Johnston said the charity hoped to create some community projects by allowing groups to come in to landscape the garden and create allotments.
Students the Park Community School, in Havant, have already helped by making a £135 donation to the charity.
The group of Year 10 and 11 students, backed by The Prince’s Trust, raised funds through several fund raisers.
Some of their efforts included washing teachers’ cars for cash and hosting a charity football match.