Surge in number of homeless people engaging in substance misuse services during coronavirus outbreak

  • 15 June 2020


The number of homeless people engaging with services to tackle drug and alcohol addictions, funded by Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (BNSSG CCG), has increased four-fold since the coronavirus outbreak.

More than 400 members of the homeless community in Bristol have been housed in hotels and hostels as part of a city-wide effort to provide temporary accommodation for homeless people during the outbreak. They are provided with medical support by the Homeless Health Service in Jamaica Street, Stokes Croft.

Lead GP at the Homeless Health Service, Dr Mike Taylor, said more than 200 homeless people are engaging in substance rehabilitation services through the service since March, up from the usual 50 who would be expected to be seek help over the same period.

Dr Taylor attributes the rise in engagement with services to a reduction in the availability of street drugs as well as a drop in income from begging and shoplifting.

He said: “We have seen a huge increase in the number of people seeking support for substance misuse problems which is one of the silver linings of the Covid-19 outbreak. The pandemic has meant there has not been the usual supply of drugs and so people are seeing this as an opportunity to get help for their addictions.

“Having a roof over their heads has also provided homeless people with more stability which is supporting those who want to break addictions to drugs and alcohol. It is hard work keeping up with the demand and we have needed to call in extra support to help people who want to engage with the services but I am glad to see so many people who want to get help and I hope that it will continue after the outbreak.”

The Homeless Health Service has been operating a reception through a window to maintain social distancing during the outbreak. It has also given away nearly 400 charity-funded mobile phones to members of the homeless community to enable staff to make appointments and carry out assessments over the phone. The service also has a ‘hot clinic’ where healthcare staff are able to see people if they require a face-to-face appointment when they are symptomatic for the coronavirus infection.