Supporting Harm Reduction through Peer Support (SHARPS): testing the feasibility and acceptability of a peer-delivered, relational intervention for people with problem substance use who are homeless, to improve health outcomes, quality of life and social functioning and reduce harms: study protocol
Citation Parkes T, Matheson C, Carver H, Budd J, Liddell D, Wallace J, Pauly B, Fotopoulou M, Burley A, Anderson I, MacLennan G & Foster R (2019) Supporting Harm Reduction through Peer Support (SHARPS): testing the feasibility and acceptability of a peer-delivered, relational intervention for people with problem substance use who are homeless, to improve health outcomes, quality of life and social functioning and reduce harms: study protocol. Pilot and Feasibility Studies, 5 (1), Art. No.: 64. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40814-019-0447-0
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.
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.
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.