Medical Outreach Team Provides Level of Healthcare to People Affected by Homelessness in Valley – Daily News
Where do people living in homeless camps go for health care? You have no insurance, no money. All they have is a few square feet of sidewalk and a puppy tent in which to sleep with their meager possessions.
If they go to the emergency room for a few hours, there is a good chance these belongings will be gone when they get back. So they stay and protect what little they have.
And they are waiting for health care to hopefully come to them.
Members of the Northeast Valley Health Corporation’s Street Outreach Team, which provides medical care to people in homeless camps. Jeannie Umanzor, a nurse, is doing an on-site COVID test. (Courtesy photo of Northeast Valley Health Corporation)
Jeannie Umanzor’s street outreach team gathered outside a clinic in North Hollywood last Wednesday morning to be on their way. It was going to be a busy day.
They had three homeless camps to visit, drugs to be given to people with substance abuse and mental health problems, COVID tests, and bandages to be changed for people with open wounds who lived in a nearby car wash.
This is the job Umanzor signed up for as a nurse four years ago and joined Northeast Valley Health Corporation – 14 health centers in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys working to provide medical care to underserved communities, including the homeless.
Working with her is Fabiola Caballero, a state-certified professional nurse; Ramiro Cabrera, a sales representative; and Yesenia Cano, a PhD student who will soon become a home nurse. They could all have found work in hospitals and doctors’ offices, but instead they chose the street.
Most people drive past homeless camps and see an eyesore that they want to go away. You see people at the lowest point in their lives.
“When we first go to a new camp they are quite aloof and reluctant to get involved, but when they find our goal is strictly medical most are ready to speak to us,” said Umanzor, who the ice breaks with snacks and the team brings water.
Members of the Northeast Valley Health Corporation’s Street Outreach Team, which provides medical care to people in homeless camps. Sitting on the stairs masked Jeannie Umanzor (top step), a nurse; Fabiola Caballero, (left on the stairs) a Licensed Professional Nurse, LVN; and Yesenia Cano, (right in the stairwell) a doctoral student who is training to be a family nurse. (Courtesy photo of Northeast Valley Health Corporation)
“You are scared. Many of them have had bad experiences trying to get medical care and don’t go back to ask because homelessness is so stigmatized. “
She tries not to take her work home with her, but it’s hard when the patients you’ve looked after all day sleep in cardboard shelters and puppy tents under bridges and in washing facilities that night.
“I turn off my phone at 7:00 pm and spend my free time with my husband and two-year-old son,” she said. “At 7 a.m. I turn it on again and go to work.”
Kimberly Wyard, the CEO of Northeast Valley Health Corporation, was a wizarding assistant at Busch Gardens before doing a $ 3 an hour internship in 1974 to work for a new health center in the city of San Fernando that opened a year earlier was. It was the brainchild of a group of local citizen leaders who wanted to provide health care to underserved communities.
In the years since, Wyard has worked her own magic to expand the operation that now supports health care for 350,000 people a year – from babies to the elderly – in vulnerable populations.
“They’d overload the emergency rooms or postpone their medical care if we didn’t bring them to them,” said Wyard. “Our goal is to keep people out of emergency rooms and to control chronic diseases so they don’t get worse.
“Our doctors, nurses, pharmacists and all of our professional staff have chosen to work in underserved communities because they want to give something back. Some of them grew up in the same churches. “
They don’t see eyesores when they drive past homeless camps, they see people at the lowest point in their lives.
People who need help, not stigmatized.
For more information on the great work of Northeast Valley Health Corp. and their upcoming Giving Tuesday fundraiser can be found online at nevhc.org/donate
Dennis McCarthy’s column runs on Sunday. He can be reached at [email protected]