Background: While people who are homeless often experience poor mental and physical health and problem substance use, getting access to appropriate services can be challenging. The development of trusting relationships with non-judgemental staff can facilitate initial and sustained engagement with health and wider support services. Peer-delivered approaches seem to have particular promise, but there is limited evidence regarding peer interventions that are both acceptable to, and effective for, people who are homeless and using drugs and/or alcohol. In the proposed study, we will develop and test the use of a peer-to-peer relational intervention with people experiencing homelessness. Drawing on the concept of psychologically informed environments, it will focus on building trusting and supportive relationships and providing practical elements of support such as access to primary care, treatment and housing options. Methods: A mixed-method feasibility study with concurrent process evaluation will be conducted to explore the feasibility and acceptability of a peer-delivered, relational intervention for people with problem substance use who are homeless. Peer Navigators will be based in homelessness outreach and residential services in Scotland and England. Peer Navigators will work with a small number of participants for up to 12 months providing both practical and emotional support. The sample size for the intervention is 60. Those receiving the intervention must be currently homeless or at risk of homelessness, over the age of 18 years and self-report alcohol/drug problems. A holistic health check will be conducted in the first few months of the intervention and repeated towards the end. Health checks will be conducted by a researcher in the service where the Peer Navigator is based. Semi-structured qualitative interviews with intervention participants and staff in both intervention and standard care settings, and all Peer Navigators, will be conducted to explore their experiences with the intervention. Non-participant observation will be conducted in intervention and standard care sites to document similarities and differences between care pathways. Discussion: The SHARPS study will provide evidence regarding whether a peer-delivered harm reduction intervention is feasible and acceptable to people experiencing homelessness and problem substance use in order to develop a definitive trial.
The authors would like to sincerely acknowledge the ongoing support and important contributions of the organisations who are hosting the intervention and the staff within them who support the study on a day to day basis. We would like to acknowledge all the participants who have been recruited to the study without whom it would not be possible to do this research. We would also like to acknowledge the support and guidance that we receive from our Study Steering Group, our Experts by Experience group, our study sponsor and our NIHR Research Manager.
The SHARPS study is funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment Board (NIHR HTA 16/153/14). The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health. Neither the study sponsor and funders are involved in the study design; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; writing of the report; or the decision to submit the report for publication. Only the study co-investigator team has the authority over these activities.
- Feasibility trial
- Harm reduction
- Peer Navigators
- Substance use