Faculty, students, and staff in the UCR School of Medicine distributed care packages and hygiene kits on Dec. 19, 2018, to more than 100 people in severe need in the City of Riverside. The kits, assembled earlier that month by more than 40 faculty, students, and staff, included sweatshirts, water bottles, warm socks, and hygiene kits. The effort was part of the UCR Health Street Medicine program, which had already met with success in nearby Palm Springs.
“The assembly and distribution of care packages for the homeless are meant to be more than a holiday tradition,” said Dr. Tae Kim, a health sciences clinical professor of family medicine and the chief medical officer of UCR Health, who helped spearhead the effort. “Our goal was to expand the Palm Springs effort to the Riverside region and to support the mission of the School of Medicine of serving the community – especially the underserved. We plan to assemble and distribute such care packages twice a year and to expand partnerships locally that will allow us to serve a larger portion of our homeless population.”
The majority of the recipients of the care packages in Riverside were the homeless and unsheltered population. The distribution of the packages took place at the Health to Hope Clinics in the city.
“It is important for UCR medical students to get involved in the UCR Health Street Medicine program because it reaches an underserved population that is marginalized in our society,” said Daniel Gehlbach, a UCR Class of 2022 medical student who participated in the effort. “Meeting people where they are at through Street Medicine provides the opportunity to dignify the worth and value of those living on the streets. Invaluable lessons are learned through experiences of partnering with the poor and building relationships.”
Kendrick Davis, the associate dean for assessment and evaluation in the School of Medicine, co-led the Riverside effort.
“As a university and medical school it is our mission to work within the community, be an extension of the community, and a beacon of hope for the community,” he said. “This effort is only the beginning. Work with vulnerable populations, such as the homeless, provides the School of Medicine faculty the opportunity to better connect with the community and its powerful stories with the hopes of inspiring lasting efforts of increased support for a healthier community.”
The medical school plans on assembling and delivering care packages again in Riverside in late June 2019. The school will also plan to provide the city’s homeless with “health coaches” through the Health Education Liaison Program, or HeLP, a new School of Medicine pipeline program.