The Queen’s Nursing Institute’s Homeless Health Project visited the St Basil’s Charity in Birmingham in January 2015 and held a focus group session with the National Youth Reference Group, a group of young people with experience of homelessness.

Ten young people from across the country came to attend the session and talk to the QNI about being homeless and their positive and negative experiences of healthcare and what they would like to see in the future. This document captures their views.

The QNI wanted to learn from the group what keeping healthy meant for them and how much value they put on their own health and wellbeing. Although individually they placed other things above their own health, they agreed collectively that they valued their health above all else. Others highlighted the critical role of the NHS to maintain population health in the future and expressed worries about spending cuts and how this may threaten the service. They especially identified how important services were for people who were homeless and how it was crucial that services were maintained and sufficiently resourced.

Being young and homeless can expose people to a whole host of vulnerabilities. Young people are likely to be less confident, experienced or well-equipped to manage these vulnerabilities and this includes the experience of engaging with health services and health professionals. Like all of us, young people are influenced by their perceptions of the world around them and these perceptions differ from those of the professionals delivering services. If self-efficacy is low a person is unlikely to challenge professionals or ask the necessary questions to clarify understanding.

Conversely, unrealistic expectations can leave young people feeling let down by services, and being put off attending them in future. Therefore clear communication between health professionals and young homeless people are crucial about what they are entitled to – health professionals should actively aim to empower them to take advantage of their health rights.  Core to all this, it is vital that professionals practice values of compassion and empathy – young people in this focus group have clearly indicated how important it is that they feel listened to, and that appointments are about their needs.

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