Students praised for their work with homeless people

Public Health students on placement at SIFA Fireside

Two Public Health students have been praised by Birmingham homeless charity SIFA Fireside for their work on placement.

Third-year students Chipo Nduna and Shuvai Maja were on a three week placement at SIFA Fireside as part of their final-year module, Working in Public Health Contexts. Among their tasks while on placement they helped with art sessions and quizzes for the clients, carried out research with second and third generation Irish service users and conducted a mental health survey.

Public Health Courses

Birmingham City University

This work allowed them to explore a number of Public Health-related issues – including the links between housing/homelessness and health; the everyday nature of the exclusion that homeless people face from society; and the barriers that homeless people face in maintaining healthy lifestyles.

Peter Higgins, a SIFA Fireside Volunteer explained why it is so important for students to have the opportunity to take up a SIFA Fireside placement: “When they see people coming into the drop-in to get warm or have a shower, that’s when they get more insight into how the people who use SIFA live.  They can see the importance of understanding the issues underlying homelessness, such as mental health problems, and supporting people with these, rather than trying to ‘cure’ the homelessness and then wondering why people end back on the streets.

Paula Smith, Programme Director for BSc (Hons) Health Studies (Public Health), was delighted with the feedback on Chipo and Shuvai’s performance. She said: “Increasingly Public Health employers are asking for employees to be on or working towards registration on the UK Public Health Register.

“The Register assesses students on the extent to which they meet specific competences, such as collaborative working skills, and placements help them to show how they have applied these skills in practice.”

Chipo and Shuvai were so dedicated to their placement that they even stayed on for an extra week. Janet Codling from SIFA Fireside was grateful for their support.“

For the Public Health team, relationships with organisations such as SIFA Fireside are central to their work. Paula continued: “We have very good partnerships with local organisations and charities, and recently developed a Partners Strategy based on the principle of mutuality, rather than just on us asking partners for support.”

“This includes inviting partners to attend events and to teach on the programme. We have also submitted joint research bids and staff at the University encourage students to volunteer at partner organisations.”

Lynn Evans from SIFA Fireside agreed that links between SIFA Fireside and public health are mutually beneficial. She said: “We are passionate about tackling the health inequalities faced by our clients – 80per cent of homeless people report mental health problems and 40 per cent report problems with substance abuse as well as facing barriers to getting benefits – so having Public Health students who share this passion and bring knowledge and expertise is brilliant.”

If you would like to find out more about the work of SIFA Fireside and how you can support this, visit their website.

Return to the previous page.