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Education / Medical Education / Outreach / Street Outreach


Street Outreach

What is Street Outreach?

Street Outreach (SO) is a student outreach group at the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry and the University of Rochester School of Nursing that focuses on supporting individuals who are unhoused in the city of Rochester.

Mission and Vision

SO is an outreach group made up of medical, nursing, and social work students that aims to:

  • Serve as a bridge between the medical community and the community of individuals experiencing homelessness in Rochester
  • Increase access to healthcare and social services for individuals without houses
  • Distribute physical goods (food, supplies, etc.) to the community
  • Support (and not duplicate) the work of other outreach-focused organizations in Rochester
  • Create an opportunity for students to get to know a community that might be otherwise unfamiliar, with the knowledge that all students will, at some point in their career, work with patients experiencing homelessness and the hope that some of those students will choose to serve this community specifically as future physicians, nurses, and social workers

In working towards these goals, we focus on building and maintaining relationships with members of a historically marginalized community. We are guided by values of autonomy, mutuality, and respect; we use intentional, person-first language; we critically examine power and privilege; and we emphasize the principles of empowerment and trauma-informed care.

History of Street Outreach

global healthUR Street Outreach began in 2011 when Emma Lo, then a second year medical student, made a formal proposal to Dr. Adrienne Morgan, Senior Director of SMD’s Center for Advocacy, Community Health, Education and Diversity (CACHED). The program was based, in part, on Lo’s experience with Operation Safety Net, a Street Medicine program founded by Jim Withers, M.D., 20 years ago that is now part of the Pittsburgh Mercy Health System. Lo spent a year in AmeriCorps, working with Operation Safety Net, which is now a model in a national Street Medicine movement.

At its inception, Street Outreach was founded as an organization that would provide medical care for people who are unhoused (see initial proposal and poster). SO was initially able to provide consistent medical care to patients without houses due to student engagement, institutional support, and community support. Currently, the program is focused on supporting the community of individuals who are un housed by providing physical resources and connection to community resources.  We recognize that providing care to this patient population requires experienced providers who are adequately positioned to provide consistent care to build trust with patients who have experienced harm through the medical system. See Street Outreach Evenings below for further details regarding the current operations.

How do students support individuals who are unhoused in the city of Rochester?

Students typically go out into the community 2 or 3 weekday evenings, depending on student availability. Students go out in groups of typically 4 (minimum 3) comprised of medical, nursing, and/or social work students. A second, third, or fourth year medical student involved in SO leadership leads the evening, which involves gathering resources to distribute from the the program’s closet and/or food donated from community organizations, as well as organizing backpacks with supplies. Alternatively, if students are assisting a medical provider in the community with providing care, the Street Outreach Rounds Leader begins the evening by ascertaining students’ comfort level with the evening’s activities (i.e. taking a history, conducting a physical exam, or obtaining vital signs).  The Rounds Leader transports students to and from the predetermined location using their personal vehicles and ensures students understand the goals of the evening and safety expectations.

An example of an evening is as follows:

5:45 pm: Meet outside the medical school at the clock tower entrance
6:00 pm: Arrive at predetermined location (i.e. Peace Village, Open Door Mission, etc.)
6 - 8 pm: Volunteer with Street Outreach
8:15 pm (approximately): Return to the medical school

Historically, the program has partnered with a variety of different organizations, including Person Centered Housing Options, Center for Youth, House of Mercy, Open Door Mission, MC Collaborative, and Regional Health Reach. A current list of locations, times, and goals of Street Outreach evenings can be found here.

Students receive training prior to their first volunteer evening that provides them with a brief overview of working with the community and resources available in the community.

Students between their first and second year of medical school may choose to engage with people without houses to conduct a community needs assessment or other research project. Any research conducted through summer projects is subject to careful consideration by the Research Subjects Review Board at the University of Rochester with the recognition that this population is marginalized and should not be subjected to unethical research practices. Funding may be available through Office of Medical Student Enrichment Programs (OMSEP); if you are a current student interested in obtaining funding through OMSEP, please contact


Street Outreach is run by second-year medical students. Volunteers are always needed for evenings and shelter visits. To participate as a student, doctor or nurse, or to make a contribution, please contact us at