As the weather warms up and Christmas approaches it seems everyone is focussed on the festive season; food, gifts, shopping, consumerism, family catch-ups, champagne.
But what about the thousands of people on the streets of Perth who are homeless or marginalised?
For them Christmas is just another day in a long string of days in which they try to survive as best they can.
If they’re lucky they will be in fairly decent health, however the less fortunate are unwell. Unwell and living on the streets is difficult to fathom. At no time do we like to have our creature comforts more than when we are sick.
There is a small glimmer of hope though and that is a wonderful organisation called ‘The Street Doctor’ which is a fully kitted out medical van which exists to treat marginalised and homeless people with medical examinations, check-ups and treatment.
I have known about the Street Doctor for a while as I have seen the brightly coloured van on the streets of Northbridge several times, but it wasn’t until I started researching it that I realised what a great need they fill and how important the service is.
About 6 months ago I posted a photo I snapped of the Street Doctor out and about one day and uploaded it to Instagram and Facebook. It received hundreds of likes and a lot of comments and I came to realise that many people don’t know about this amazing service.
So, I thought it was fitting that our last post of the year focuses on the Street Doctor and the wonderful work they do.
We spoke to Mary-Ann Bass, the Street Doctor team leader and Collean Fahy, executive manager of ‘360 Health and Community’ the overarching body which runs Street Doctor. Collean told us that the Street Doctor “does everything that a GP in a clinic would do.”
The Street Doctor van is set up with an examination bench, medicine cabinets, wheelchair access and specialised machines and equipment.
The patients do not need to book an appointment as such but they do need to fill in forms and provide consent.
Most patients know about the Street Doctor through word of mouth or by one of the outreach programs which work out on the streets of Perth.
The rate of homelessness in Perth is rising all the time.
As times get tougher and our population increases these statistics will only increase.
The Street Doctor van is positioned on the corner or Pier and Wellington Streets every Tuesday and Thursday evening and throughout the week it has various designated spots in Northbridge, Midland, Ashfield and Perth. There is also a specialist Aboriginal clinic in Bassendean and sites that focus primarily on at-risk youth and women. (See website for full details of the Street Doctor schedule- Link below)
As well as physical health check-ups the Street Doctors and Nurses can refer people to specialists and service providers in the fields of mental health, drug and alcohol addiction and dentistry as well as referring people to hospital or certain specialists for more chronic diseases and ailments if needed.
Visits to the Street Doctor are completely bulk billed, the service relies on a small amount of Government funding and private donations.
The Street Doctor team comprises at least one Doctor and one to two nurses for each shift and they will generally see between 6 – 10 patients in a 2 hour block.
The next venture in the works is to set up a “Street Dentist” as this is also an important service.
As well as a much needed medical service it is obvious from my observations, and from talking to Mary-Ann and Collean, that the Street Doctor provides a lot more than that. The people who were gathered around, even if they weren’t there to see the Doctor, were interacting and being social. It provides a meeting and focal point and something to do within these communities.
The Red Cross also attend many of the sessions and they set up a soup van which also provides a crucial and popular service. Sometimes bakery goods are given out as well.
The Street Doctor relies heavily on donations to keep running. It is a very important service in looking after the vulnerable members of our society.
If you feel you can help, especially at this festive time of year, you may wish to donate to this amazing cause so that they can keep making a difference in the lives of homeless and marginalised people who will be living on the streets this Christmas. (More information on the website- link below.)
Basic medical care is a human right in our society and it should be a provision for all humanity.
Without the comforts of a home, a bed, heaters, air conditioners, proper food and medicine, the homeless and marginalised are at a greater risk of disease, accident, illness and premature death.
As well as medical treatment The Street Doctor is giving dignity, kindness, respect, care and compassion to the people who need it the most.
A wonderful and much needed service.
Please see the scrolling gallery below for more photos:
Link to their website: Street Doctor
If you wish to donate or for more info please use the “Contact Us” form within the Street Doctor website.