Dying of cancer on the streets: how Pendleside Hospice is helping homeless Burnley people suffering from terminal illnesses

Imagine having incurable cancer while living on the streets.
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It is a brutal reality seen by Pendleside Hospice, which helps homeless people in Burnley access medical care and pain relief for terminal illnesses.Alison Lucas, End of Life Care Facilitator, says some addicts and homeless people face stigma when seeking support in the medical world."Can you imagine finding yourself facing up to the end of your life with very little support – no place to confidently call home, none of the basic comforts, such as shelter from the elements, no bed to sleep in [and] no access to medical care to address painful symptoms?“Many homeless [and] vulnerably housed people have experienced trauma in their lives. For some, drug and alcohol use has been a coping mechanism. There is a stigma within society for those who regularly use drugs and alcohol. Some of the homeless report they have had bad experiences when trying to access health care.“Some feel judged. For example, a homeless person told me they were not given adequate painkillers in the hospital despite crying out in pain.”Pendleside embarked on a mission to help people sleeping rough with only a year left to live after coming across research revealing that they tend not to access hospice care. Upon discovering the paper published by national charity Hospice UK, Alison began working with NHS services and Pastor Mick Fleming, founder of Burnley poverty charity Church on the Street, in October 2021.Their collaboration offers one-stop health support to disadvantaged groups attending Church on the Street, whether visiting the health clinic, counselling service, food bank, community kitchen, or addiction recovery group. It means a homeless person can access hospice care on the same day and in the same place where they attend rehab or have a therapy session and a free hot meal.“It may be more difficult for this group in society to make or keep appointments as they may not have access to a telephone or keep a diary. Sometimes, homeless people have a rather chaotic lifestyle, making it difficult to access care when needed, for example, going to hospital appointments.”The hospice provides numerous services, including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, complementary therapy, psychotherapy, inpatient care for symptom management, rehabilitation and end-of-life, and bereavement support via the Family Support Team.