A man roots through the garbage at the 16th street BART stop in San Francisco. (Keith Menconi/KQED)
By Polly Stryker
You know how you feel when you’ve been camping and haven’t showered? After a couple days, your body feels sweaty and ripe; your hair feels greasy. As you start to head home, you begin craving a shower — the soap, the hot water, the clean towel. It’s likely the first thing you do when you get home.
But homeless people live a different reality every day. For them, cleaning up depends on making it to a public shower somewhere across town, with a long line, only open during certain hours. Keeping clean is a nearly impossible challenge.
San Franciscan Donice Sandoval started thinking deeply about this question one day two years ago when she was walking near the Design Center in San Francisco. She saw a homeless woman under the 101 overpass crying, terribly upset that she would never be clean. Sandoval had always felt moved and saddened when she saw people who were homeless. Seeing the woman gave her an idea. Since clean bathrooms and showers are so hard for homeless people to get to, why not bring showers to them?
And so Sandoval created a nonprofit Lava Mae, a play on the Spanish word for “wash me,” to help the homeless.
Sandoval recently described her mission to KQED’s Joshua Johnson. San Francisco’s 3,400 homeless people have access to just 16 shower stalls, at different places around the city. Just getting to them can be tough. Also, not all homeless shelters have showers. Surprisingly, some emergency family and winter shelters don’t have showers. Continue reading
Fred Smith lives in his RV in Palo Alto. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)
Editor’s note: On Sept. 19, Palo Alto joins many other cities in Silicon Valley in preventing people from legally living in their vehicles. As part of our ongoing series of first-person health profiles called “What’s Your Story?” 69-year-old Fred Smith talks about living in his RV after being a software engineer in Silicon Valley for nearly thirty years. Smith gives us a tour of his home.
By Fred Smith
It’s an ’85 Winnebago, Chieftain. And there’s clothes and books, and those are pictures of my wife.
We’re in the bedroom right now and it’s a decent sized queen bed, I guess you’d call it. Actually, it’s a better bed than a lot of people have.
Back in 2003, I was doing well, getting $145,000 a year. Then I got caught in the tail end of the dot-com crash and never recovered from that. Unemployment had ran out and I realized that I couldn’t afford to keep the apartment I had. Actually, I ended up living in my car with my cat for a couple weeks here in the alley behind Happy Donuts. You know, you got these seats that fold down, and you’re half in the trunk and half in the back seat. Continue reading
Wendy Georges (second from the left) leads a planning session for the new TRUST Clinic (Photo: David Modersbach)
By Alvin Tran
Alameda County has new plans in store for its homeless population – it intends to open an integrated medical clinic in downtown Oakland.
The TRUST Clinic is one of the county’s newest projects and involves the collaboration of several agencies including Alameda County’s Health Care for the Homeless Program, Social Services Agency and Behavioral Health Services.
But unlike other clinics in Alameda County, TRUST will be one of just two which will offer integrated health services, including primary care, behavioral health, case management with housing assistance, and medical-legal partnerships.
“This clinic is a very innovative idea. It’s not something that’s being done in very many places,” said Dr. Michael Boroff, a clinical psychologist who will be working at the clinic. “It embraces the integrated health care … with medical and mental health and all of these different aspects of services combining and working together as a team.”
By Alvin Tran
Alameda County Mobile Health Services Unit van, set up to treat patients in downtown Berkeley. (Photo: Alvin Tran)
The walking wounded wander the streets of Alameda County.
They are people who are homeless and live day to day in public parks and shelters. They are people in need of support for mental health issues and drug and alcohol addiction. And says Addie Brown, they are also one of the most difficult groups of patients to treat.
Brown would know. She oversees the operation of the Mobile Health Services Van headed by the Alameda County Health Care for the Homeless Program (ACHCHP). The van travels throughout Alameda County serving approximately 160 homeless individuals each month. A team of healthcare providers, including nurse practitioners and social workers, provide no-cost primary care and support services, such as counseling and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
“Over the years, we’ve saved a lot of lives. A lot of clients come with conditions that would have gone untreated had we not gone out there. We’ve been able to help them with their medical issues and getting them hooked up to the appropriate clinic, or doctor, or specialty care,” Brown explained. Continue reading