Brain Injury and HomelessnessDecember 9, 2019
I am a solicitor at Bolt Burdon Kemp specialising in claims relating to adults who have suffered brain injuries, so, I know better than others the vulnerabilities of brain-injured people.
I have also volunteered at Crisis for Christmas (a charity for homeless people who operate shelters for people over Christmas) for the last four years running and have met and chatted to quite a few homeless people.
So, whilst the research published in the Lancet Public Health journal last week suggesting that around half of all homeless people had suffered traumatic brain injury (and around a quarter of homeless people have suffered a moderate or severe brain injury) upset and appalled me, it did not surprise me.
Brain injuries can have wide-ranging impacts that result in emotional changes as well as physical and mental problems. All of which disrupt people’s personal relationships and get in the way of their ability to work and care for themselves. No wonder that so many of the people who end up with no home and living on the street have been disadvantaged in this way.
Brain injury does not discriminate. If you think you are not vulnerable to car accidents or falling in the shower you are wrong. Some of the most inspirational people I have met have had brain injuries – they have been builders, lawyers, students… Whose lives, personalities, worlds changed forever the day they were unfortunate enough to have an accident.
On the flip-side… one thing that might make you more vulnerable to brain injury would be living without a home. Homeless people are much more susceptible to accident or assault (you are 17 times more likely to be assaulted in the space of a year if you are homeless – https://www.crisis.org.uk/about-us/latest-news/new-research-reveals-the-scale-of-violence-against-rough-sleepers/) and are less likely to access (or be able to access) healthcare.
So, if you are homeless you are more likely than most to sustain a brain injury and, if you do, will have less access to much-needed rehabilitation.
As Christmas approaches, the election looms and the weather get colder, it is impossible not to notice the growing problem of homelessness on our streets – up 250% since 2010 https://ourworldindata.org/homelessness-rise-england.
Whatever the cause, underlining vulnerability or series of events that leads to homelessness – one crucial mistake at work, family breakdown, the breakdown of your relationship, becoming unwell or injured… no one should pass judgement on those who sleep rough. No reason is more valid than another. No one should be without a home.
Instead, this statistic from the Lancet is another clear indicator of a fact we should all be aware of already. The most vulnerable people in our country are being let down by the rest of us.
None of us are immune to brain injury. All of us would hope that if we suffered such bad luck we would not have it compounded by ending up living on the street.
None of us are immune to homelessness. All of us would hope that if we did end up on the street, we would avoid accidents or assaults that would make a hard lot a lot harder.
Tom Lax is an associate solicitor in the Adult Brain Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp. If you feel you may have a claim or are enquiring on behalf of a loved one, contact Tom free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4840 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Adult Brain Injury team will contact you. Find out more about the Adult Brain Injury team.