Articles, Blog

What Is Street Medicine Detroit?

December 12, 2019

[Robert McClinic:]
Homelessness for me was just
a very, very horrible experience. There are times that you become very, very lonely, because you can look someone in the eye and know that they are not looking at you or seeing you, but they are looking through you. When you make eye contact with someone
and you nod or smile or say good morning, and you don’t get a response. Or the response you get is maybe
them clutching their purse a little tighter. Homeless people aren’t treated well at the ER either. It’s like,
“Oh, it’s another one of those people,” you know? You hear little snide remarks like that,
or you just see the expression on people’s face that just let you know that
they really don’t want to deal with you. [Jonathan Wong:]
My wife actually read an article about this guy,
Dr. Jim Withers. He’s based out of Pittsburgh
and runs a program called Operation Safety Net. He’s been doing this for decades. So he’s literally going out onto the streets,
going to the people, so to speak, and bringing medicine right to their feet. What struck me the most was really
his heart and just this idea of
really being present for them and understanding how they are living their lives
and how an experience with homelessness affects their pathology and well-being. You know, just thinking about how we might be able to
do something like that here in Detroit, did some research, and then began talking with
some folks at the School of Medicine
and also out in the community. [Dean Carpenter:]
When Johnny Wong first approached us
with the project, I was very intrigued by it. In fact, I had been thinking about
what sort of things are lingering out there for people who don’t come in and seek treatment. You know, we’ve learned of people who
are found dead in the field, you know, from time to time, and I’m wondering if
they had come here if we could have saved them. [Robert McClinic:]
I have so much respect for you all because
you go to where the people are, you know, do what they call “street runs.”
And wherever you see an individual that’s homeless, you know, approach them and find out
if they have medical issues, and you guys do that. And there is such a huge need
for that type of service. [Dean Carpenter:]
People are just so grateful for the things that we do. You know, just treating them with respect
and looking at them in the eye, it means a lot to a lot of people here. [Jonathan Wong:]
The root of building trust is really
just having compassion and showing care and being very humanistic and understanding
of people’s situations, and you know, it just comes down to doing unto others
as you’d have them do unto you. [Robert McClinic:]
The bottom line is, at the end of the day,
we’re all human beings, and first and foremost, we’re all God’s children. And if we believe that there is a God, then you know, He would have us treat people well. And you know, just think about how you’d like
to be treated if you traded places with that individual.

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