“Seven years ago, I lived on the streets of West Oakland, California — one of the legions of human beings whose trauma had hurled them into the position of having no place to be somebody. Like the other 80 or so displaced people who I lived with, my struggle with mental health, substance use, and poverty had me falling off the edge of the world.
“. . . My story could well have been the dash between dates etched on a headstone, were it not for the policies that make street medicine, substance use disorder treatment, and the empowerment of people living through homelessness possible. My tale is one that celebrates the efficacy of providing accessible health care, harm reduction, trauma-informed life counseling, and navigation toward sustainable housing for the unhoused. It shows that the trauma inherent in being homeless can be turned around, resulting in transformative growth and positive outcomes.”
In his compelling essay published in Health Affairs Narrative Matters, Lawrence Lincoln, a former street health patient and a current collaborator with Alameda County Health Care, recounts his experiences living on the streets and finding a voice for people experiencing homelessness in policy making and program decisions. Lawrence’s perspective offers an inspiring call to action that looks beyond stereotypes and advocates for amplifying voices that too often go unheard.
For the past four years, the Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS) has had the privilege of working with and learning from Lawrence, who currently serves as an advisor for the Partnerships for Action Learning Collaborative. This initiative led by CHCS with support from the California Health Care Foundation, is fostering partnerships between health care and homeless service organizations to improve care delivery and health and housing outcomes for Californians experiencing homelessness. We are grateful to share Lawrence’s essay and encourage efforts across the nation to meaningfully involve people with lived experience in informing more effective policies that support people in finding a place to be somebody.
Select photos courtesy of the Camden Coalition