Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

current issue

June – July 2024 : Reflections READ ONLINE


Breaking bread

August 01 2023
Emdad (left) with members of the Barking Bread Run team © Emdad Rahman Emdad (left) with members of the Barking Bread Run team © Emdad Rahman

Words on working in outreach and seeing the link between homelessness and mental health, as well as the importance of cooperation between grassroots outreach groups. By Emdad Rahman

The cost of living crisis has intensified the problem of food insecurity and it is the poorest people who are the worst affected. As a consequence, thousands of people are experiencing hunger and malnutrition, mental health difficulties and social isolation.

Homelessness and mental health are very much interconnected and often go hand in hand. People experiencing homelessness are more likely to have mental health problems, and those with mental health problems are more at risk of becoming homeless. The relationship between homelessness and mental health is complex and multifaceted.

As part of a new drive to connect with our local homeless population, I have been working closely with Lisa Gonsalves, the Community Food Coordinator for Barking and Dagenham. We have started to share fresh bread with rough sleepers and local homeless people.
The Homeless Bread Run drive is also supporting local families struggling to buy essentials, as the steep price rise in the cost of so many staple food items is causing people to buy and eat less.

We have no budget, but our work reflects how teaming up with folks who share a vision can make a small and positive difference. 

Through the Kind Counter we’ve sourced jam, butter and plastic knives to help with spreading on sandwiches. On the rounds, I have heard accounts of how traumatic an experience homelessness is and how it exacerbates mental health issues. The instability and insecurity of being homeless can cause stress, anxiety and depression, and can make it difficult to maintain relationships, employment and other aspects of daily life. Homelessness can also lead to substance abuse, which can further worsen mental health.

In essence, sharing and breaking bread together has offered tremendous insight into how mental health affects homeless people.

Conversely, mental health issues can increase the risk of homelessness. Conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe depression can make it difficult to maintain employment and stable housing, and can strain relationships with family and friends. The lack of access to mental healthcare and social support can also contribute to homelessness in those with mental health issues.

In addition to mental healthcare, providing stable housing is essential to ending homelessness. Programmes that offer permanent supportive housing, which combines affordable housing with wraparound services such as mental healthcare, substance abuse treatment and job training, have been shown to be effective in reducing homelessness and improving mental health outcomes.

Collaboration between government agencies, healthcare providers and social support organisations is also crucial. Coordination and integration of services can help ensure that individuals receive the comprehensive care and support they need to overcome homelessness and mental health problems.

Homelessness and mental health are two crises that are deeply interconnected. Addressing one without addressing the other is not a viable solution. By working together, we can help ensure that everyone has access to the care and support they need to live healthy, fulfilling lives.

Get to know

Emdad names a few outreach services operating in east London. Find out some more information on them below:

  • The Homeless Bread Run hands out bread to people in east London, specifically in Barking and Dagenham
  • The Kind Counter offers food outside East End Cycles, 116 Mile End Road, E1 4UN every Tuesday and Saturday, 12:30 – 1:30pm.