Mental well-being: health services are not always a priority for homeless people

These are “everyday essentials” for those living on the streets, Roberts says.

Mental health services and programs are an integral part of helping people who are homeless or at risk, but most of the time it is not people’s main goal, according to Julie Roberts, executive director of the Community Builders Group. .

Roberts, who is part of a nonprofit overseeing Richmond’s newest temporary modular housing (TMH) called Aster Place, said people who have been living on the streets or in shelters for a long time often focus on the “day-to-day basics of survival” rather than health services.

“We recognize that when people come in from the outside, it can be a long time since they’ve sought help for their physical and mental well-being,” Roberts said.

“We find that it takes people a while when they get (inside) to focus more on the basics, like those who don’t have ID or access to possessions or food sources. Health services are prioritized at the rate residents seek help.

The Richmond TMH offers in-house access to physicians, counselors, a psychiatric nurse, and a registered nurse.

She added that mental health, physical health, substance use and safe supply support is highlighted for residents when they move in to “ensure they know what’s available.” “.

“We build those relationships and do regular check-ins with residents so they can receive that support or be encouraged to receive the support if they haven’t already.”

Residents moving into TMH buildings work with staff, the Community Builders Group in the case of Richmond, to help residents focus on areas where they want help.

Their needs are first and foremost housing and food and when their needs “become less urgent,” residents begin to access the services that are available, according to Roberts.

Roberts told the Richmond News that the community has seen “overtaxing of our primary and health care services” over the past year.

“Health services in general are overstretched, given the current state of our medical systems,” she said.

“I don’t think there’s a problem with mental health services (being) underutilized, but it’s about whether or not people who are homeless or in shelters have the ability to focus on them.”

What Roberts hopes to see is greater partnership with other options like psychiatric wards, which she says are limited for internal access to the TMH.

“There needs to be more funding for mental health services in the community as a whole and then connecting people to them.”

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