An initiative for the homeless has been granted funding by supermarket chain Waitrose to offer food bank starter kits in GP practices in Manchester.
The not-for-profit Homeless Friendly initiative helps people sleeping rough access GP care by partnering with practices that pledge to welcome patients who do not have a fixed address.
After pledging, practices receive training on how to care for homeless patients and stickers to display in their window to show they are part of the scheme.
The £500 funding for Homeless Friendly comes after Waitrose made the organisation’s work a community cause in December last year.
The community initiative enables Waitrose customers to vote for a charity of their choice to receive up to £1,000 in donations from the retailer.
In the case of Homeless Friendly, the funding is designed to help pledging practices in Greater Manchester further support their homeless patients by setting up their own food banks for vulnerable patients.
The kits, which will be available after the funding comes through on 13 March, will include information on how to set the food banks up, where to display details about it, how to inform your local authority, and registering the food bank.
The boxes will also contain basic provisions such as some tins of food, dried pasta, and posters to display.
The money from Waitrose will pay for an estimated five or six starter kits across the Greater Manchester area, according to Homeless Friendly founder Dr Zahid Chauhan.
However, he hopes Homeless Friendly will soon be able to extend the scheme nationally, by partnering with small organisations and through additional donations generated within practices.
Dr Chauhan said: ‘We’re asking small organisations to support us; we’re just saying “these are the things we want to do, can you help us to do it, or can you do it yourself”?
The funding comes after a BMA survey in January revealed an increase in the number of homeless patients presenting at practices over the past five years.
More than a quarter of GPs responding to the survey said a large number of homeless patients had visited their practice over the past five years.
Nearly a fifth, 18%, said their practice now dedicates greater time and resources to homeless patients, compared to five years ago.
Management in Practice has previously reported on different initiatives by practices to help homeless patients.
These include GP surgeries signing up to the Homeless Friendly initiative, and a GP practice in Scunthorpe sharing its shower facilities with rough sleepers in the local area.