Venice Family Clinic CEO urges administration official to include health care in homeless initiatives

Contact: Michelle Stuffmann
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Federal Public Health Official Met with the Nonprofit Community Health Center’s Leaders and Street Medicine Team on Tuesday

LOS ANGELES– (Sept. 11, 2019) – Elizabeth Benson Forer, Venice Family Clinic CEO, urged the leader of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (Corps) on Tuesday to ensure the federal government focuses on the need to provide health care, along with housing, for people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles.

The Corps is a team of 6,500 public health professionals dedicated to delivering the nation’s public health promotion and disease prevention programs as well as advancing public health science. Rear Admiral Susan Orsega, director, Commissioned Corps Headquarters, met with Venice Family Clinic leaders on Tuesday. She was a member of the team of administration officials who visited homeless programs in Los Angeles to learn more about them.

“We appreciated Rear Admiral Orsega coming to Venice Family Clinic to learn more about health care for people experiencing homelessness because this issue is sometimes lost in conversations about homelessness,” said Forer. “Health care is an essential part of housing many of those who live on the streets. Providing health care, including injectable medications for mental health issues, helps establish the connections needed to get people experiencing homelessness to consider shelter and helps ensure they succeed in housing programs.”

Venice Family Clinic provides health care to approximately 4,500 people experiencing homelessness through its network of clinics and its nine “street medicine” teams who provide health care to those living on the street.

“People experiencing homelessness often won’t come to a clinic to get care,” said Dr. Coley King, director of homeless health care at Venice Family Clinic, who was at the meeting. “They may not have transportation or want to leave their possessions to travel to a clinic. We go to where they live to ensure they get the care they need.”

Venice Family Clinic began sending providers to the beach to seek out people who needed medical care as far back as the 1980s. Today, its street medicine teams travel the westside of Los Angeles with the clinic’s community partners at The People Concern and St. Joseph’s Center.

“Not only is this the right thing for us to do for people experiencing homelessness, it’s the right thing to do for all of us,” said Dr. King. “The estimated annual cost of someone living on the streets is $30,000 to $50,000 in additional police, emergency, sanitation and other services, while the cost of supportive housing is nearly half that.”

The lifespan for people experiencing homelessness is about half as long as those with homes, and they are dying at a rate of nearly three a day in Los Angeles.

“We not only have a homeless crisis in LA. We also have a health care crisis,” said Forer. “While housing is a powerful form of health care, seriously ill patients will continue to die on the streets without proper medical care.”

About Venice Family Clinic
Venice Family Clinic is a leader in providing comprehensive, high quality primary health care to people in need. Launched in 1970, the Clinic has grown from a small storefront operation into the largest community health center on the Westside of Los Angeles. With the help of more than 1,300 volunteers, including nearly 400 physicians, it provides comprehensive medical, behavioral health, dental, substance use treatment, vision, child development, health education and health insurance enrollment services to more than 27,000 men, women and children annually through 12 sites in Venice, Santa Monica, Mar Vista, Inglewood and Culver City. For more information, visit