On July 20, about 75 supporters of Doctors Without Walls – Santa Barbara Street Medicine (DWW) gathered at the Squire Foundation for the launch of the September 16th Glow in the Park fundraiser, where guests will dine at Elings Park and indulge in hot-air balloon rides. DWW provides health care to homeless and low-income individuals.
Hosted by the Armand Hammer Foundation and the Squire Foundation, the event began with an alfresco reception on the stunning grounds dotted with Morris Squire’s eclectic sculptures. Guests then entered the equally stunning building where Board President Paul Jaconette (COO, CenCal Health), welcomed the guests and explained that to end homelessness, getting people healthy is essential — if a person isn’t healthy, he cannot be a productive member of society.
Jaconette shared how the demand for DWW’s services is growing but that the organization’s expansion is constrained by its limited resources. He encouraged everyone to visit the clinics to see the work and hear people’s stories, an experience which will reveal that many of the folks are just like them, except that adverse circumstances have lead to their homelessness.
In an interview, Fire Chief Pat McElroy, a new boardmember, shared that he wanted to join the board because as a firefighter he has been dealing with the homeless for years, has known people who have become homeless, and recognizes that this is a super-underserved population. McElroy noted that DWW’s work helps the community at large because without the organization, the homeless would otherwise be using fire and other emergency services. By taking care of the homeless, DWW improves the health of the whole community.
DWW sets up mobile medical clinics in Pershing Park and Alameda Park each week where its volunteer physicians, other health-care providers, and pre-med students serve homeless and low-income individuals. Recognizing the special needs of homeless women, DWW also operates the Women’s Free Homeless Clinic at Transition House three Fridays per month. Staffed by an internist, podiatrist, and other health-care professionals, the clinic offers medical care and mental health counseling, as well as acupuncture, showers, a hot lunch by Anthony’s Organic Soup Kitchen, laundry services, donated clothing and hygiene items, and referrals to other services.
Moreover, DWW is on call 24/7 to respond to medical emergencies. Once per month, it sets up a clinic at a low-income housing site to treat residents. With a recent grant from the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara, DWW acquired a mobile medical van, which has enabled the organization to expand to Lompoc where there is a tremendous need for its services. Twice per month, DWW sets up a clinic there.
At the Santa Barbara and Lompoc clinics, the working poor, who do not have health insurance, cannot afford their co-pays, or cannot get an appointment with a physician who accepts their insurance, are seen alongside the homeless.
Executive Director Maria Long is aided by three part-time staff, coordinators (who get a nominal stipend), and 332 volunteers, including 21 physicians and 34 other health-care professionals. Last year, this amazing organization served 755 unduplicated patients through 2,042 visits.
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