Cardiff Met Podiatry Students Help Newport’s Homeless

A group of final year Podiatry students are offering their services at Eden Gate, a drop-in centre and charity for homeless people in Newport city centre, to help tackle the physical problems that arise from homelessness.

Podiatrists are health care professionals who have been trained to prevent, diagnose, treat and rehabilitate abnormal conditions of the feet and lower limbs. The group of podiatry students from Cardiff Met visit the Eden Gate drop-in centre with a qualified member of academic staff and a member of staff from Cardiff and Vale University Health Board.

Natalie Pitman, one of the volunteer podiatry students, said: “When many people are asked to consider the health issues homeless people experience, mental health problems and drug and alcohol abuse usually come to mind first. But not many would consider just what living on the streets can do to their feet, and how serious the problem can get.

“Imagine if your feet got wet, and you weren’t able to dry them, or your socks. Imagine if you were unable to change those socks and shoes for weeks, even months, rarely having the chance to take them off. On top of that, imagine feeling invisible, forgotten about and discarded by society. These are the real experiences of some of the people we treated.”

The students offered to wash people’s feet in warm soapy water, dried them with clean towels, cut their nails and filed away any hard skin or corns.  They were also able to provide clean socks and thermal shoe liners thanks to some generous clothes and toiletry donations from their course mates.

Natalie commented: “We didn’t do anything ground-breaking, but just offering physical human contact, clean and dry feet and a sympathetic listening ear was enough to mean something. I have never encountered patients so appreciative.

“As well as it being a rewarding and humbling experience, it is also something very different to what we see on a daily basis on placement or at the clinic at Cardiff Met. It really helped to expand our knowledge and experience of dealing with vulnerable adults and the complex medical needs homeless people may have. I can’t wait to go back and continue making a difference.”

The group is planning to go back later in March and every six weeks after this to ensure continuity of care.

Senior Lecturer in Podiatry, Joanne Fawcett said: “During the two visits to Eden Gate so far, our podiatry students have done Cardiff Metropolitan University proud – all involved have acted with professionalism, empathy and genuine compassion. As the academic member of staff on duty, I have been delighted to see the university represented in this way and feel that this is a valuable learning opportunity for our students.”

Cardiff Metropolitan’s Wales Centre for Podiatric Studies is the only centre for the education of Podiatrists in Wales and as such, is supported by the Wales Assembly Government. It also offers a wide range of high quality podiatry services to the general public, as part of the clinical training for the students.