Detox and Homelessness

two people talking while sitting down - detox image
Supporting people through addiction can take a long time. But by letting people set their own goals and being flexible, recovery is possible.

Our Treatment Project: Improving access to detox

In a recent survey of the people we support, 73% shared that they’re using substances, including alcohol, every single day.

This is concerning in and of itself. But when we know that only 22% of them are getting regular support for their addiction, it’s clear something is wrong.

This gap confirms something we’ve known for a long time. People in our local area aren’t getting the treatment they need.

They deserve better.

How can we help people sleeping rough and struggling with addiction?

We’re teaming up with local partners to find new ways of supporting people sleeping rough who are struggling with addiction. Part of this work will also look to collect evidence on this issue and the solutions we find.

Together, we can use this information to push for policy change and better support for people across the country.

People sleeping rough have often struggled to access addiction support.

But this kind of work isn’t new to The Connection. Since 2019, our outreach team has run a methadone prescribing clinic with Turning Point, the Homeless Health Service and a local GP surgery.

This is a flexible, walk-in support centre that provides wraparound healthcare. The clinic also supports people sleeping rough with complex needs who are more likely to struggle with change and often get left behind. This means we meet people where they’re at and take the time to build trust. This kind of person-centred and trauma-informed approach is essential when supporting people experiencing addiction.

The success of this approach has shown that once a substance dependency has been stabilised through the clinic, people are then in the position to prioritise other needs they have, like finding accommodation. We’ve been pleased to see a significant number of our clients settle into accommodation after attending the clinic.

While clinics like this are important, they’re only part of the solution and we’re looking into the other types of accessible support that are needed. One of the big challenges people face is getting the right help into detox support.

What is detox?

Our support workers have found that under the current system, people have to ‘prove’ that they’re willing and ready to engage with support by attending pre-treatment groups over several weeks. This isn’t easy, especially for those living with a lack of stability.

For example, we know many people sleeping rough move around their local area for their safety. This means they may not be able to visit the same location over and over again if transport isn’t arranged. Additionally, people struggling with addiction often lose track of time, making set appointment times tricky.

Simply put, this support is inaccessible to most people sleeping rough and struggling with addiction. It fails to consider how their chaotic life experiences make sticking to a schedule (especially one they have no say in) difficult.

By failing to be flexible, services are unable to offer support to those who need it most.

We can see something has to change.

That’s why we’ve developed a pilot project to support people into detox who would otherwise struggle to be given this chance through the current system. We’re working to ensure they have the wraparound support they need before and after detox too.

We know that detox doesn’t always work on the first try, especially if we consider abstinence the only ‘true’ measure of success, but it can be an important step in harm minimisation and towards longer-term recovery.

Based on our conversations with people experiencing rough sleeping and addiction, we know a more long-term recovery approach is needed. This means sticking with people and never giving up no matter how tough things get.

Our approach focuses on harm reduction, improving health and creating positive life changes, which will help reduce overdose cases. We hope this will offer the chance of recovery for people who have struggled alone for a long time.

This project is going to help us show what works and make a case for services to adopt these models. We’re also campaigning for commissioners to put the right resources in place to support this.

How you can help

As we mark Overdose Awareness Day this week, we know we have a long way to go in making sure no one dies of overdose. But together, we can make sure that people facing homelessness and addiction get the support and care they truly deserve.

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