Health Care for the Homeless Day
The Homeless Persons Health Project (HPHP) deploys a full medical team to a variety of Homeless Outreach Service Sites, going “tent to tent” to offer PPE and COVID-19 testing. Of course, COVID-19 does not mean that underlying, ongoing health issues have paused. The teams also offer behavioral health interventions and referrals, distribute harm reduction and hygiene kits, offer Narcan, and change wound dressings – just as they would in non-COVID times.
From a sample of 28 documented field visits with nurses in June (a small portion of the total outreach), we learned that 11 had no primary care provider. This created a significant opportunity to engage people experiencing homelessness and connect them to a medical home. Although 8 of the 28 said they had at least one symptom of COVID, all were offered testing and 20 accepted. One tested positive, leading to contact tracing of their boyfriend and transfer to an isolation/quarantine motel room the same day. Both incidence and number of co-morbidities are high in this population, so it was not surprising to find that 10 of the 28 were dealing with three or more conditions, including substance use disorders and behavioral health concerns.
In addition to field outreach and staffing a weekly clinic, the team has responded to outbreak clusters in shelters across the county. They’ve also helped develop the guidance that shelters have adopted to protect both staff and residents.
As they always do, the HPHP team and their partners are working hard to make sure that a lack of shelter does not lead to a lack of health care, and to keeping everyone as safe as possible, whether they are inside a shelter or out on the streets.