Many of our neighbors experiencing homelessness are operating in survival mode. Understandably, their health and wellness end up neglected. How do you choose between getting medical attention or possibly losing your belongings? Missing meals? Using the precious little money that you have on transportation? Even worse, trying to walk the distance in pain to get treatment? Is walking even possible with a debilitating or chronic health issue? The reality is that survival mode leaves you with limited choices.
Access Services’ Street Outreach program sees this need daily. We wanted to help in this capacity but were limited by our expertise. We did not have doctors or nurses or clinics. Our program had the ability to connect people with their basic needs and housing support, to walk alongside those experiencing homelessness, but medicine was not something we could directly offer. Mark Boorse, Director of Program Development at Access Services said,
“This is personal. Each year we lose people to homelessness that I have built a relationship with in the community…This is a life and death discussion…finding a way to bridge the gap was the only option we would accept.”
Armed with an idea and a grant, Street Outreach launched the Street Medicine program with an invitation to agencies and organizations to partner with us to make it happen. What we found was that there were many others who would catch the vision and answer the call. Partnerships were formed with Pottstown Hospital/Tower Health and Community Health & Dental, with other service providers like Creative Health, the Learning Recovery Center and Pottstown Beacon of Hope. The faith community, and other groups who contribute to serving individuals experiencing homelessness in Pottstown joined the cause and have contributed as well.
The first street medicine rounds were done on January 26th, 2021 in Pottstown, PA. Our Street Medicine program went on to serve 107 unique individuals in 2021. This never would have been possible without the innovative partnerships that were formed over the first few months of building the program. “We adopted this idea of ‘Aggressive care facilitation’ – what is in the way of you getting to the clinic? We are not going to allow barriers to stay in the way of this person accessing care. Come hell or high water…I don’t know how we’re going to get you there, but we’re going to try like heck!” said Mark Boorse. And there are several people, our team and partners, that come together to decide who can meet each need every time.
This thinking led to the creation of a new position, “Street Medicine Navigator”, with the goal of outreach engagement prior to street medicine contact, coordinating the connection of homeless persons to medical providers, follow-up care, prescription medication delivery and more. As of the writing of this story, 76 individual people have been served since January 2022. Our hope going forward is that our capacity will continue to grow, that more people will answer the call to partner with us and extend our reach in the Montgomery County community and beyond.
Want to learn more about the housing crisis in Montgomery County and how you can help, join the #WeBelong Community page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1111724492728572
If you would like to partner with us in your area of Montgomery County, please reach out to Mark Boorse, Director of Program Development, at firstname.lastname@example.org Intersect Network – Access Services