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O-2 Dying as a homeless person – how can we help?
  1. Barbara Sheehy-Skeffington
  1. Royal Trinity Hospice, London, UK


It is well known that homeless people do not access healthcare in the same way as the general population and the same goes for their access to palliative care. At Royal Trinity Hospice we set up the Homelessness Working Party to try and explore ways that we could reach out to those who are homeless and have palliative care needs.

Since then, we have:

  • Organised a stakeholder gathering, which was well attended and started to link us in with some of the key individuals and organisations in homelessness;

  • Supported the homeless with palliative care needs, at first on an ad hoc basis but now we are trying to do this in a more systematic way, through links with hostels, as well as those who support the street homeless;

  • Promoted our work through visits to hostels and specialist GP surgeries, speaking at events, teaching sessions and networking at external meetings – to improve the help that we can provide and hopefully help improve access for this underserved population;

  • Organised ‘Homelessness Awareness Week’ to help teach our own staff about the issues faced by the homeless population and how best we can support them.

In the future we plan to:

  • Continue to visit hostels to provide both support and teaching, as well as seeing new referrals;

  • Provide training on end of life care for those who work with the homeless;

  • Create a leaflet, accessible to the homeless population, to explain palliative care and how the hospice can help;

  • Organise a coffee morning at one of the local homeless hostels, using the Death Café model, to encourage residents to think about death and dying in a non–threatening way;

  • Promote our work to the rest of the palliative care profession in order to inspire other providers to improve their outreach to the homeless.

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