How do you make a house call to someone without a house? Dr. Jim Withers operates his practice with a simple idea: The best way to care for the homeless is to treat them where they live.
5 nights a week Dr. Withers and his partner Mike Sallows head out into the Pittsburgh night to give medical care to those who need it but can’t afford it, or don’t trust the medical system. Sallows was homeless himself for seven years. After getting back on his feet he became part of a group called Operation Safety Net. He continued to go out every night and give out blankets to the cold living in the streets. One night, Withers told him he was a doctor and asked if he could join him. Sallows knew there were a lot of medical needs out there and could use the help, but he told Dr. Withers one thing “Don’t dress like a doctor, and don’t act like a jerk”.
So Dr. Withers bought a book and learned how to dress like a homeless person and how to mingle. Every night he packs his bag with basic medical needs and heads out to treat those he meets. “People out there are hanging on for dear life”.
Dr. Withers understands he’s in a special position to help people. “One of the things that happens is that you see yourself in street people. If you’re honest you see, I could have been there, that could have been me”.
Withers estimates that they have treated over 1200 homeless since they started in 1992. and their work has gone beyond Pittsburgh. They have either found or helped create organisations like theirs in over 85 cities around the world. “I’d love to see it become a point of pride, a jewel in the crown for communities everywhere” he says.
To find out more about Dr. Withers’ work and to help visit the NationSwell website.