Homeless to benefit from hospice project

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HOMELESS people are to benefit from vital end of life care through an innovative project inspired by the death of a well known Big Issue seller.

The Stephen Project, run by St Nicholas Hospice Care, supports homeless people, who are terminally ill or grieving over the loss of a loved one.

The initiative was influenced by Stephen Pryke, who sold the Big Issue in Stowmarket, Thetford and Diss, and died in a car accident in Ipswich three years ago.

A post-mortem examination revealed the 39-year-old, who lived on the streets most of his adult life, had gastric cancer with days, or at the most weeks, to live.

His cousin Jane Carpenter, who is spearheading the project as a senior registered nurse on the hospice’s Sylvan Ward, said: “I can’t imagine the pain he must have been in. His death made me realise we need to do things a bit differently and I want people who don’t normally engage with us to do so.”

Through the project, homeless people can contact the hospice directly for help but organisers also plan to train and advise staff at agencies such as Tayfen House, the YMCA and Norcas to provide support for those in need of end of life care.

Ms Carpenter added: “Seven per cent of Suffolk’s population are regarded as homeless and the average age of death for males is 44.

“The kind of lifestyles they can get into often cause them to have long term or life shortening health problems and they’re often very reluctant to engage with health professionals.

“This is about widening access so homeless people know we’re here for them.”

The project has received a £22,000 grant from a programme funded by the Burdett Trust for Nursing and managed by Help the Hospices.

Funding will last for a year

and has allowed Ms Carpenter to spend time away from her clinical work on the ward.

Barbara Gale, chief executive officer for the hospice, said: “We’ve got to reach people who don’t usually access hospice care. Hospices started several hundreds of years ago caring for people dying on the streets. Some of that vision has got lost along the way and we’re trying to bring it back. The hospice is there for everyone.”

Anyone who wants free information, support or advice should call (01284) 766133 and ask for the Stephen Project.