Christmas shelter for the homeless opened in Anlaby Road by Hull Royal staff
HOSPITAL staff are opening a house to care for homeless people in a bid to tackle bed blocking over Christmas.
Doctors, nurses, cleaners and ancillary staff will give up their free time to look after sick homeless people at the house in Anlaby Road, west Hull, as hospital staff reach out to the city's homeless community this winter.
The house, donated by Sanctuary Housing until the end of February, opened its doors for the first time last night.
It is part of a radical winter plan by Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust to ensure homeless people with medical conditions and illnesses do not block beds at Hull Royal Infirmary.
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Pauline Lewin, the trust's chief of infrastructure and development, said: "If a member of the homeless community is admitted to hospital, it takes five times more to treat them – they generally have more illnesses and they stay longer.
"There are times when a homeless person comes into A&E, they are treated and then we can't just send them away with nowhere to sleep, so we give them a bed for the night.
"Having the accommodation opposite the hospital means they can be treated and then given a bed there for the night."
Nurses and doctors have volunteered to give health checks to the home's residents in their own time.
Surplus patient food which is not given out on the wards will be fed to the home's residents.
Old showers, sinks and beds which have been removed from the hospital during renovation work have been fitted at the house, with builders currently employed by the NHS and those working on the new A&E volunteering to fit them.
The trust has emphasised the house will not be in competition with other homeless shelters and will take in people once others in the city, such as The Crossings in east Hull, become full.
Initially, it will have from eight to ten beds, but this can be upped to a maximum of 20 if demand increases when the temperatures plummet.
Trust chief executive Phil Morley said: "For people who are worried we are 'wasting' NHS money on this – we aren't.
"All the staff time, food and furniture for the house have been donated.
"We have a responsibility to do whatever we can for homeless people.
"The average life expectancy of someone living on the streets is 41 – which is shocking."
The project coincides with Emmaus becoming the trust's charity of the year for 2013.
The national organisation, which has a charity shop in Newland Avenue, supports homeless people to get work and accommodation.
Ms Lewin said: "A lot of people have a certain perception about homeless people – that they're all alcoholics or drug addicts.
"Some do, but more than 20 per cent don't.
"They say you are only two pay-cheques away from being homeless – without two months worth of wages, most people would struggle to afford their car and home and would be homeless. We have a corporate responsibility to do what we can to help these people."