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Elderly at 43: On health and homelessness

Author Category Source

Parity, 30(8), 52-53

Published Year Read Publication

The authors, both from the Auckland City Mission, detail the grim reality of homelessness and its impact on health, particularly among the elderly population.

The narrative is centred around Niko, a 43-year-old man whose life as a chronically homeless individual exposes him to the harsh elements and neglect, significantly reducing his life expectancy compared to the general population. The authors highlight the critical services provided by the Auckland City Mission’s Calder Health Centre, which offers essential healthcare to Auckland’s most vulnerable and marginalised residents, including the homeless, those in crisis, and individuals with mental health and addiction issues. The article emphasises the challenges faced by homeless individuals in accessing healthcare, often resulting in their avoidance of medical services until conditions become severe. In response to this need, the Mission opened its own healthcare clinic in 2008, offering accessible and affordable services integrated with its social services. This holistic approach is exemplified in the on-site social worker, who provides immediate support to patients in need of social assistance. A key focus of the Calder Centre is its initiative to combat Hepatitis C among the homeless population, where the prevalence of the disease is significantly higher than in the general population. The centre has established a Hepatitis C clinic, offering effective treatment with new medication and addressing the challenge of safe medication storage for homeless patients. Moreover, the Auckland City Mission is part of a broader strategy to implement a Housing First approach in Auckland, with plans to construct self-service apartments with wrap-around services, including an expanded Calder Centre, for chronic rough sleepers and low-income individuals. This initiative underscores the recognition that long-term health outcomes for the homeless are intricately linked to effective housing solutions. Through the story of Niko and the services provided by the Calder Centre, Koppel and Blair-Hunt bring attention to the intersection of health and homelessness, advocating for a comprehensive approach that includes both immediate healthcare and sustainable housing solutions for one of the most vulnerable segments of society.

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