This grant will fund the salary of the daytime Outreach Worker for one additional year, sustaining medical and mental health services to people experiencing homelessness.
Doctors Without Walls-Santa Barbara Street Medicine (DWW) is the only nonprofit agency providing healthcare outreach to people who are homeless and living under conditions that cause and exacerbate mental and physical illnesses. The agency’s volunteer outreach teams (doctors, nurses, med students) provide street medicine in Santa Barbara, Goleta, and Isla Vista to vulnerable clients in parks, cars, shelters, and on the streets. They treat wounds and diseases, provide vaccinations, and assist with referrals and transportation to specialized medical or behavioral health services.
In 2020, a Women’s Fund grant enabled DWW to hire a registered nurse as a daytime Outreach Worker (OW), DWW’s only paid clinical position. In her first four months, the OW led outreach teams that had 1,642 client encounters with homeless people, representing a 120% increase over the beginning of 2020. The OW addresses acute and chronic conditions, performs procedures, provides COVID-19 protocol education, and makes referrals. Through telemedicine, she connects clients to other medical personnel who can diagnose and write prescriptions. She also administers vaccinations for flu, hepatitis, and now COVID-19.
Before the OW was hired, outreach was limited primarily to evenings because most of the volunteer clinical staff hold daytime jobs. Daytime outreach allows the OW to consistently monitor follow-up care and reliably connect clients to services that are only available during the day. Also, her interventions make it less likely that mental health and medical problems will need to be addressed by first responders and hospital emergency rooms. This grant will help keep the Outreach Worker leading teams that engage in an average of 411 medical encounters per month for people experiencing homelessness.