Reaching Homeless People Through Their Pets: Street Medicine Bakersfield

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Jennifer suffers from grand mal seizures. She recently experienced one and was brought to the hospital. During a grand mal seizure, Jennifer forgets things and places. Despite her condition, the hospital discharged her and placed her in a taxi cab with no jacket, no shoes, and the wrong destination. The taxi cab left her on an unfamiliar place, disoriented and confused. While Jennifer slept on a sidewalk, her husband searched for her for two days. This story is not uncommon for homeless people. Yet if it happened to a housed person, there would be outrage.

The Clinica Sierra Vista Street Medicine Team, led by Dr. Matt Beare, is dedicated to providing vital healthcare services to the homeless community in Bakersfield, California. With a focus on compassionate and respectful care, the team addresses the unique challenges faced by those living on the streets and in riverbeds and helps connect them with the resources they need to improve their health and well-being. Through their tireless efforts, the Street Medicine Team is making a real difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

The Clinica Sierra Vista Street Medicine Team has found that one effective way to reach and provide health care to homeless individuals is through their pets. On average, each homeless person in Bakersfield has three dogs, and the Street Medicine Team has recognized the important role that these animals play in the lives of their owners. By bringing dog food and other supplies to homeless individuals, the team is able to build trust and establish relationships with those who may be hesitant to seek medical care.

Street medicine is the direct delivery of healthcare to people experiencing homelessness in their environment on the streets, in the riverbeds, under bridges, or wherever they reside. Animated by their values of love and solidarity, the street medicine movement has spread throughout California in response to a growing homeless crisis. This video series captures the common philosophy guiding the work and the diversity in practice throughout California. Accompany street medicine teams on their journey to care for the beautiful people they serve living on our streets, who inspire the movement forward.

In this four-part series, Brett Feldman, Director of Keck Street Medicine at the University of Southern California (USC), introduces us to four Street Medicine programs that deliver healthcare in the woods, under the bridges, behind dumpsters, and wherever else people who are experiencing homelessness are living. Today, join us as we go out on the streets of Bakersfield with Dr. Matthew Beare and the Clinica Sierra Vista Street Medicine Team.

This video series is brought to you by the Invisible People and the California Health Care Foundation to augment street medicine research in California. Please visit for more information.

Episode One: Street Medicine Redding: Health Care to Rural Homeless Camps

Episode Two: Street Medicine Oakland: Team-based Homeless Health Care

Episode Four: Street Medicine LA: Health Care in an Urban Homeless Crisis

About the California Health Care Foundation:

The California Health Care Foundation is dedicated to advancing meaningful, measurable improvements in the way the health care delivery system provides care to the people of California, particularly those with low incomes and those whose needs are not well served by the status quo. We work to ensure that people have access to the care they need, when they need it, at a price they can afford.

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We imagine a world where everyone has a place to call home. Until then, we strive to be the most trusted source for homelessness news, education and advocacy.

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