Jeneba Belewa is an experienced community nurse at Saint Francis Hospice. She is part of the homeless widening access project, which is working to help people who are homeless use the hospice's services. The group was set up after the charity successfully secured a grant from The Masonic Foundation Trust via Hospice UK.

Homeless people often suffer from complex and chronic diseases. They have high rates of morbidity and die at much younger ages than the general population. This is due to a complex combination of physical, psychosocial and addiction problems at the end of life and they often have limited access to palliative care.

Everyone should have access to the very best end-of-life care and support when they need it.

The aim of the project is to reach out to homeless people, who are among the most vulnerable people in the communities we serve in Havering, Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, Brentwood and West Essex.

The project started in January and initially focused on Havering, but it is hoped it will extend to Barking and Dagenham and Redbridge.

Ann Dalgliesh is the lead nurse at the hospice and she is supported by members of the homelessness widening access group, who are all experienced healthcare professionals.

There has been a number of successes so far.

We have built strong relationships with organisations involved in the care and support of homeless people, along with homeless hostels, to identify people who may have end-of-life care needs.

We’ve also delivered educational teaching sessions for hostel staff and other stakeholders to improve their awareness and understanding of end-of-life illnesses and the services we provide. This has resulted in an increase in referrals to the hospice and people seeking advice and support.

As part of World Homeless Day on October 10, five members of the group also experienced rough sleeping in a small way by sleeping out in the hospice grounds to raise awareness of the project.

Homelessness is a big challenge for the government. In August 2018, it published a new national rough sleeping strategy, which sets out the government’s vision to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminate it altogether in 2027.

As a group, it is our desire to make our hospice services easily accessible, flexible and offering coordinated care and we will continue to work in partnership with other stakeholders to deliver end-of-life care to our homeless communities in the boroughs that we serve.