Homelessness has grown to epidemic proportions in California. In Los Angeles County alone, more than 52,000 people are homeless. The vast majority of homeless people are not living in shelters and have little to no medical care available to them. Street Medicine serves the homeless community by providing direct care on the streets and under bridges to the unsheltered and hardest to reach populations. All care is provided free of charge and delivered onsite, including dispensing medications and drawing blood for testing. The Street Medicine movement has grown exponentially in recent years and is now active in more than 60 American cities. Not only does Street Medicine offer care –often lifesaving care– but it also reduces costs for communities by addressing many health concerns before they intensify.
USC has named homelessness as a priority in need of unique and innovative solutions. Research has shown that among people who are homeless:
- Average life expectancy is 42-52 years; it is 78 for housed individuals 1
- 38 percent have two or more major medical illnesses 2
- 25 percent have a severe mental illness 3
- At least 30 percent have a current drug-use disorder 3
The Keck School of Medicine of USC Street Medicine is an emerging collaboration of interdisciplinary healthcare professionals that aims to improve care for the homeless while advocating for healthcare justice in Los Angeles through medical and social service outreach and research. The city’s homeless encounter numerous barriers to primary healthcare despite experiencing a disproportionate burden of acute and chronic health issues. Under the direction of Brett Feldman, MSPAS, PA-C — an internationally recognized expert on Street Medicine– our program offers services that address the circumstances that undermine the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of our city’s homeless.
1. O’Connell, J.J. “Premature Mortality in Homeless Populations: A Review of the Literature.” 19 pages. Nashville: National Health Care for the Homeless Council, Inc., 2005.
2. Lebrun-Harris LA1, Baggett TP, et al., “Health status and health care experiences among homeless patients in federally supported health centers: findings from the 2009 patient survey.” Health Serv Res. 2013 Jun;48(3):992-1017. doi: 10.1111/1475-6773.12009. Epub 2012 Nov 7
3. Lehman AF, Cordray DS. Prevalence of alcohol, drug, and mental disorders among the homeless. Contemp Drug Probl 1993;20:355-83