Street medicine — the practice of providing basic medical care to people experiencing homelessness and living on the street — reduces barriers to care and builds trust. Street medicine has been essential in mitigating the impact of COVID-19 among this high-risk population. Unhoused individuals have a higher mortality rate than those who are sheltered or housed, a greater risk for adverse outcomes due to COVID-19 because of higher rates of chronic conditions, and an increased risk of infection due to environmental factors. Street medicine providers are the front line of defense against these inequities by working to decrease the spread and impacts of COVID-19, such as worsening mental health, increases in substance use disorders, and delays in health care for the unsheltered population.

This profile features perspectives from representatives at two California-based health centers — Lisa Abdishoo, MD, president and CEO, and Shannon Fernando, FNP-C, chief innovation officer at Los Angeles Christian Health Centers and Danielle Williams, MD, a provider at Roots Community Health Center in Oakland. In interviews with CHCS, they shared how their street medicine programs are adapting to meet patients’ needs amid the pandemic.

Homelessness and COVID-19: Innovation Snapshots

This profile is part of an ongoing series produced by the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) in collaboration with the Center for Health Care Strategies that highlights the challenges and innovations of addressing the health needs of people experiencing homelessness during COVID-19 and beyond.