It Begins with Trust
“We start by building relationships and trust, trying not to have an agenda. We address their immediate needs; only after some time will they consider going to a clinic or the hospital,” said Emma Lo, UR Street Outreach founder.
In the first months of the program, Lo and others worked to build trust and relationships with the wary people they encountered, simply talking with them or providing them with clean socks. UR Street Outreach volunteers now carry over-the-counter medications and antibiotics they give to those in need.
It Builds with Caring
At least one night a week, one or two medical students and a physician or nurse join a formerly homeless person, who acts as a liaison, for visits to sites where the homeless gather to sleep, to camp, or to get a free meal. Once every two weeks a team visits the House of Mercy, a shelter serving homeless in northeast Rochester, to treat patients. Often, volunteers see the same patients over a period of months and come to know the people they’re treating.
Students not only experience in the real world what they’re learning in class, they develop friendships. “When people I personally care about have problems, it really motivates me,” said Lo. “People come in with diseases I’m learning about. It’s a reminder of why I’m in medicine, an inspiring way to learn.
Volunteers have found people with frostbite, high blood pressure, chronic asthma, fractures and even seizures. Many have been receptive to receiving medical care and some take additional steps including seeking employment or housing.