Winter Appeal – Street Medical Outreach Saves Lives

Night Nurses in MelbourneWinter is upon us and as the cold starts to bite we know there are thousands of vulnerable people facing a winter outside, sleeping rough, across Australia. This has a profound effect on their health and wellbeing. Experiencing homelessness means a shorter life, especially if you are on the street and unfortunately the numbers of people sleeping rough are rising, with recent street counts confirming these fears.

Winter is upon us and as the cold starts to bite we know there are thousands of vulnerable people facing a winter outside, sleeping rough, across Australia. This has a profound effect on their health and wellbeing. Experiencing homelessness means a shorter life, especially if you are on the street and unfortunately the numbers of people sleeping rough are rising, with recent street counts confirming these fears.

That’s why this EOFY our Winter Appeal is raising funds to support vital medical outreach services.

“With winter fast approaching, the situation for the people we work with only gets more perilous. Cold nights sleeping on the streets only makes their health and wellbeing more critical and we are the only medical outreach service people can turn to for vital support.”  Nic Horton. Youth Projects

Homelessness Kills

The people experiencing homelessness are diverse, and the pathways into homelessness are very complex. What we do know is that the people who are long-term homeless and rough sleeping are the most vulnerable group. A high proportion have come from a state-care background, have significant experience of trauma, and unsurprisingly a well-developed distrust of authority.

Research from UK shows that people, who sleep rough, have a life expectancy 30 years below average. Sleeping on the street is dangerous, and creates a host of health issues, and untreated chronic illness, the flu, wounds, and infections, can turn deadly. What is deeply frustrating is that these services are needed and ever more so. As a community we just aren’t prioritising homelessness.

So, our EOFY Winter Appeal will raise vital funding for five lifesaving health projects, who hit the streets each night to care for the most vulnerable in our community. These organisations are poorly funded and some are entirely run by volunteers.

“The Homeless Health Care Street Clinic receives no government funding, the response we received was that it was ‘too innovative’, and that Hobart doesn’t have a homelessness problem.” David Patras

Funds raised in June will go to support: Homeless Healthcare (Perth), Homeless Health Care Tasmania (Hobart), MICAH (Brisbane), Night Nurses (Melbourne), and StreetMed (Sydney). If we reach our target of $50,000 we will extend this support to projects in Adelaide and Darwin.

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Where would extra funding be used?

“Ongoing support for the Night Nurses team would enable us to continue to update our equipment, particularly new glucose monitoring equipment that is faster and lighter, helping us manage the high levels of people with diabetes that don’t always have access to ongoing care to manage their condition. It would also allow us to distribute blankets, sleeping bags, fresh socks and heat packs to ensure our clients doing it tough can get some relief from the elements while we continue to attend to their health needs.” Nic Horton, Youth Projects

Rough sleepers commonly suffer from untreated mental health issues, injuries, skin infections, poor foot and mouth care, and blood-borne viruses. In winter it’s especially hard to keep on top of even the most minor of ailments, which can become serious problems, ending up in A&E and prolonged hospital treatment. It’s about getting help to people when they need it most. Medical outreach saves lives.

“One of the major issues we face is wounds. When you’re living on the street and you get a cut, or can’t keep your feet dry – the rate of infection is very high and can be fatal if left untreated. That’s why we always need a good stock of wound dressings. The other issue that our patients face is chronic health conditions like diabetes which have been untreated for a long time. Having Diabetes kits available is really essential.” Dr Andrew Davis, Homeless Healthcare.

Last Year’s Appeal Impact

Last year our supporters raised $38,050 for the 5 projects and every $1 is put to use, delivering life saving services…

“The Street Clinic receives no government funding so StreetSmart funding was vital. Last year we purchased a portable ECG machine and a Spirometer. We also upgraded the on- board Laptop to ensure that the new equipment all synced up accordingly. The remainder of the funds went to having more bandages, flu shots, antibiotics and other consumables, as most interventions entail a form of either wound dressing or handing out Ventolin puffers, especially as winter approaches. On our run we catch up with those that do not access any social services and just touch base and ensure all is well. On occasion we may provide antibiotics, it is this cohort of people that the equipment will be most beneficial for. Then we head out to some neighbouring suburbs for those that are in living in their cars. On our route we may also deviate as the regulars that we meet may advise us of a new person that has arrived, and we will go and find them.” David Patras, All Round Health and Community Care -Tasmania

“Last year’s StreetSmart grant enabled our Night Nurses to update their vital medical and outreach equipment as we expanded the service from 3 days to 5 days a week. The grant enabled the purchase of lighter and more reliable monitoring equipment such as a new blood pressure monitor, medical supplies such as bandages and dressings, lighter backpacks, and basic supplies such as water and hydrolytes. With the right equipment we were able to treat people on the street and avoid them having to present to emergency departments or just go without.” Nic Horton, Youth Projects

How You Can Help

These five projects provide vital care for people sleeping on the streets, in parks, under bridges or where ever they can find shelter. As winter sets in the demand for their services increases and these services depend on public support. We believe no one should be sleeping rough, but they are, and numbers have increased dramatically over the past 5 years.

Our aim is to raise $50,000. All donations are tax-deductible and we’d love your help to deliver care where it is needed most.

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