February 1, 2023
By Chace Beech
Originally published on Spectrum News 1 Feb. 13, 2023
As a street medicine physician, Dr. Coley King opens the door to medical care for unhoused Angelenos every day.
The door often happens to be the one to his mobile clinic, built into a van equipped with a full exam room, privacy screen and materials needed for a routine doctor’s visit. The office wheels are emblazoned with the logo for Venice Family Clinic, the community health center King works with. They provide a full spectrum of care to Angelenos from many socioeconomic backgrounds.
For years, King has been working with people living in Venice encampments, particularly those along Hampton Drive and 3rd Avenue. But since the beginning of this year, Mayor Karen Bass has been working to bring unhoused people indoors under her Inside Safe Initiative. Now some of these encampments have been cleared, and King’s patients have been relocated.
“I honestly don’t have full comprehension of it yet,” he said. “People were here a couple weeks ago, and now they’re not here. I think the really positive emotion is, a lot of these folks have an opportunity to have something really good happen for them.”
However, King noted it’s essential that as people are moved off the streets and into housing, they receive consistent medical care.
“They have to have that kind of support and full scope medical care, a full medical home along the way, even if it’s a virtual medical home,” he said. “It’s vital to make that successful. Otherwise, there’s the chance they will fall back out of housing and come back to the streets.”
King added that it’s often those medical issues — some physical, some mental health-related — that drive people to the streets. That was the case for one of King’s patients, Jacquies Manson. He had been living in an encampment in Venice before being offered a room at a nearby motel under Inside Safe.
Manson is the survivor of a stroke, but the impact has compromised his ability to walk — he has drop foot — so finding steady work has been hard. Manson said his medical condition led him to living on the streets and ultimately to a dependency drugs and alcohol.
“After the stroke, I was no longer employable,” he said. “And when you’re not employable, you don’t have the right income.”
King recently visited patients at the motel where Manson is now staying. He asked Manson if moving into the motel had been positive.
“I love it,” said Manson, explaining that being indoors for just a few weeks had helped him stay sober. “Now that I am here, I have opportunities to write and journal and think about what I want to do in the future, and contact people who can help me regain stability.”
In the weeks and months ahead, more people will be moved from the streets and into interim, supportive and permanent housing under Inside Safe. King said it’s crucial that medical care is part of the picture, too.
“Health is complex, but simply one night indoors of safety and a good night’s sleep — I see it in someone’s face,” said King. “It’s a look of warmth and relief.”