Mount Carmel Street Medicine team provides care to Columbus' homeless
by Janet Adams, Photographer
The Mount Carmel Street Medicine team of Jackie White, left, Jeremy Irwin, middle, and Ken Andrews head into the woods on the south side of the Scioto River to visit homeless camps on a recent morning.
Every Tuesday at 8 a.m., a nurse practitioner and a medical technician with Mount Carmel Health System meet to make their rounds. But instead of walking the halls of a hospital, they meet at the parking lot of the Holy Family Soup Kitchen on the west side and prepare to visit homeless camps around Columbus.
The Mount Carmel Street Medicine team visits the camps with a goal of tending to the basic heath-care needs of the city’s indigent population and, ultimately, connecting them with a regular source of health care.
I went along last week to document their work on a day when it was 31 degrees when we got going. The team of nurse practitioner Jackie White and medical technician Jeremy Irwin, along with homeless advocate Ken Andrews, had their medical supplies, along with hats, gloves, scarves, coats, and other cold weather gear to give out along the way.
It’s a tough life living in a camp. A recent count put Columbus’ indigent population at 450. The Street Medicine team may treat a few or up to 10 people each week but it doesn’t see its service as volume outreach. The program cuts down on visits to the emergency room, which may be the homeless’ only source of health care. In 2012 so far, Mount Carmel Street Medicine has treated over 320 people for minor illness or injuries and referred them to appropriate medical resources.
But what I saw was more than that. The team listened to those they encountered and treated them with dignity. They knew some by name and looked for others they knew needed follow-up care. Compassion was given to all. The team also provides any help they can finding a home or a job.