Groundswell are currently working with partner organisations from Ireland, Italy and Hungary, on an Erasmus+ funded project which focuses on sharing learning on how best to support older people experiencing homelessness. The project involves a series of learning events where partners come together in each country to share their approaches. So far, Groundswell staff and volunteers have had the opportunity to visit Italy and Hungary to attend learning events. In this report Karen reflects on her experience of visiting partners in Budapest to learn from their work.
Being part of the Groundswell team representing the UK was an absolute honour and a fantastic learning experience on how we support older people facing homelessness in conjunction with our colleagues from Italy, Ireland and Hungary.
I must thank our Hungarian hosts from BMSKI for their warm welcome, well organised and interesting workshop they held in Budapest.
It was a full itinerary of presentations, group discussions, visiting different locations, accommodation, health and medical services across the city.
I found it difficult to digest at times and quite emotional to see the squalid conditions people were expected to live in due to little or no funding, but in the same breath how grateful the residents were and the dedication and genuine care from the staff just blew me away.
One startling sight I will never forget was the vast number of amputees I saw at the Szabolcs hostel….my first thought was drug use, but the majority of amputees were due to diabetes and severe weather conditions.
Another was learning about a community of homeless people living in the forest and the success story of Hanya being rehoused and her struggle to settle in.
In Ireland their Housing First scheme was very successful, I was really impressed by the wrap around care they have in place, proving that if the right support is given the better the results will be.
The workshop reiterated that homelessness in general is a growing problem in Europe and each country has its own never-ending fight to do the best for its clients, but homelessness with older clients creates a whole new dynamic, dealing with frailty and complex health needs physically and emotionally.
I found the whole experience in Budapest extremely interesting, emotional and quite daunting at times.
It was a very humbling experience and I learned a lot from my colleagues.
Thanks to Erasmus for making all this happen and to Groundswell for giving me such a fabulous opportunity.