Making house calls to homeless people in Venice Beach

February 12, 2021

Originally published on Invisible People – February 12, 2021

Dr. Coley King of the Venice Family Clinic is one of a growing number of medical professionals making house calls to homeless people.

Living on the streets, people don’t visit the doctor because there are barriers: no transportation, ‘I can’t leave my stuff because it will get stolen,’ ‘I don’t trust the healthcare system’, ‘I need to find food, not healthcare’. But many homeless people are in desperate need of medical attention. They have compounding health issues like untreated mental health conditions, addictions, and severe emotional trauma.

Street medicine brings services out of the clinic and provides care directly on the street or at encampments. “I try to meet them where they are at,” Dr. King says.

These services prevent medical conditions from deteriorating to the point of needing emergency care. After addressing immediate health needs, street medicine teams try to connect homeless clients with follow-up services like mental health and addiction treatment, and ideally, housing providers.

Dr. King shares his team builds trust by engaging with homeless people, showing up multiple times, and when they say they will. “We get to know them.” In this mini-documentary, we meet Arkansas, who openly shares about his addiction and losing a friend to a fentanyl overdose. We also meet Simba, an elderly homeless man who suffers from incontinence, a common yet embarrassing problem for the elderly. Imagine living on the streets without a bathroom, privacy, or even the ability to change into clean clothes.

The pandemic has exacerbated the chronic disaster that is homelessness. Hundreds of new homeless encampments have popped in Los Angeles alone. Venice is now home to the largest concentration of homeless anywhere on L.A.’s Westside. Homelessness in Venice Beach is a juxtaposition of the haves and the have nots. Extreme wealth and extreme poverty right up next to each other.

But there is hope. People like Dr. King and Venice Family Clinic are giving their all to help people in need. On the day we were filming, we met Morris, who was turning 77 the next day. He’d been on the street for 8 years – throughout his 70s! Without sharing spoilers, watch to see what happens to Morris, proving homelessness can be ended.

We also meet Laura, who, after 15 years living homeless, is now sober after being placed in Project Roomkey. She’s cleaner, healthier, and feeling better – she even panhandled so she could buy some supplies for cleaning, a mundane activity most housed people take for granted.

Homelessness is a growing, national crisis. It should be addressed in Washington. Bottom line: Housing is the solution. We need more resources to get folks into housing. Demand action. With your help, we can end homelessness. Click here to tweet, email, call, or Facebook your federal and state legislators to tell them ending homelessness and creating more affordable housing is a priority to you.

For more information and to support Venice Family Clinic, please visit: https://venicefamilyclinic.org

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