ABSTRACT

This article serves to describe health encounters and social dynamics of 52 homeless men residing in a temporary shelter in Tshwane during the COVID-19 hard lockdown period. The purpose of this article is to explore and modify factors that influence healthcare in homeless persons, as well as to establish a homeless health profile. It also sets out to explore the help-seeking behaviour observed in this population. Common health encounters included substance use disorder, mental illness, infectious diseases, skin and soft tissue conditions and poor oral hygiene. Services were tailored to provide comprehensive on-site clinical care, making use of allied services. Barriers to healthcare were eradicated through provision of transport, delivery and on-site dispensing of medication and a patient-centred approach. The eradication of certain barriers proved that quality primary healthcare can be achieved in any setting, especially if a patient-centred approach is utilised. The provision of multiple services in a single setting would be ideal. Overall well-being improves when basic needs are met, resulting in positive health outcomes. The homeless patient specifically benefits from a multidisciplinary approach by providers who are particularly sensitive to their dynamics.

KEYWORDS: community-oriented primary care; street homeless; COVID-19; pandemic; opioid substitution therapy; homelessness; lock-down