Surviving homelessness

Read more about this page below
Published: 17th February 2017

John Conolly, Lead Counsellor in our Westminster Homeless Health Service recently featured in a short film that looks at some of the causes of homelessness.

'Surviving Homelessness' explores how mental wellbeing is adversely affected when someone is sleeping rough, and how recovering good mental health is a key component in helping homeless people to rebuild their lives.

Our multi-award winning (1) Westminster homeless health service has been established in the borough 15 years. In the face of research evidence that up to 70% of single homeless people have personality disorder (2), the counselling part of the service provides personality disorder (pd) informed counselling which takes into account the traumatic origins of single homeless people, their chaotic circumstances, trauma reactions, compromised 'mentalisation' and their need to self-medicate.

"A lot of homeless people that I have come across exclude themselves because they don't have the social, psychological and emotional equipment to engage, and society and social institutions excludes them because they don't have the understanding and tools to include them. It's a tragedy, it's tragic," John indicates.


By meeting people 'where they are at' and offering a mixture of non-contract and NICE recommended pd counselling contracts of no less than 6 months (3), the homeless health counselling service enables people to move from an unstructured form of engagement to a more structured one at a rate which is sustainable for them, and which lays the foundation from which to engage constructively with the more structured approaches of mainstream services.

As well as providing psychological and emotional counselling services, our Westminster Homeless Health Service provides a holistic approach to homeless health care to include: providing physical/nursing care; working with housing services; and also working closely with local authorities and providing support in relation to benefits. For more information about the team, visit their service page.

You can view the full 20 minute film here:

1. The Homeless Health Counselling Team won National BACP Award 2005 for the most innovative scheme in Britain for the Advancement of Counselling and Psychotherapy
1.1. The homeless counselling group as part of a larger multi-disciplinary team won National Health and Social Care Award 2006.
1.2. The Homeless Health Team CLCH NHS staff award, 2014
2. Maguire, N. J. et al., 2009, 'Homelessness and complex trauma: a review of the literature', Southampton, UK, University of Southampton, cited in Department of Health, 'Healthcare for Single Homeless People', March 2010, Office of the Chief Analyst.
3. Two staff are nationally accredited trainers and deliver 3 day Knowledge and Understanding Personality Disorder Framework, awareness raising workshops.

Accessibility tools