Mega-Clinic Provides Free Healthcare to 1,000 Homeless People

More than 700 Healthcare Professionals Joined Care Harbor on November 15 to Help Those with Limited or No Access to Healthcare

Care Harbor, a nonprofit, volunteer-based charity, began its 11th annual event at The Reef in Downtown Los Angeles with a day solely dedicated to providing free healthcare services to people experiencing homelessness in the Southern California region.

Dental work for patients from Care Harbor.  Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

“The homeless crisis in Los Angeles is everyone’s problem,” said Don Manelli, president of Care Harbor. “That is why Care Harbor is devoting an entire clinic day to the special needs of those experiencing homelessness. There’s a great need to bring the basic healthcare services to those with no homes and poor access to healthcare.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, a major sponsor of the event and a leader in the effort to provide housing for the unsheltered population, called homelessness “the moral crisis of our time.”

Eye examinations available on site. Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

“We don’t just have a housing crisis” the Supervisor said, “we have a healthcare crisis. We have a crisis of untreated addiction and substance abuse, of mental illness, of the trauma and suffering that comes with poverty.”

The lifespan for people who are homeless is cut short by 20 years relative to those who are not, he noted, adding that people experiencing homelessness have a 1 in 59 chance of dying on the streets. Put into perspective, that is double the rate of homicides in our County.

More than 58,000 Angelenos are experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County. For every 133 people that are housed through County services, 150 more become newly homeless.

Optometry and glasses provided at Care Harbor. Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

According to an October 2019 report released by the L.A. County Department of Public Health, the number of homeless deaths doubled from 536 in 2013 to 1,047 in 2018, but the death rate, which accounts for increases in the total number of homeless people, increased by over a third during that same period. The report cites coronary heart, drug/alcohol overdose, liver disease/cirrhosis and hypertensive heart disease among the leading causes of homeless deaths.

La Tina Jackson of the L.A. County Department of Public Health called for compassion for the most vulnerable population among those who are homeless — people struggling with mental illnesses.

Blood pressure taken. Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

“People with chronic mental illness are only a subset of the homeless population, but without question they are the most vulnerable; what is black and white, however, is the tremendous stigma faced by this population. But psychiatric illness is an illness,” Jackson said.

In 2018, Care Harbor piloted a program for the homeless, working with local missions, nonprofits, clinics and County agencies to provide healthcare services to this population. As a result of the success of the pilot program, this year Care Harbor worked with Los Angeles County departments and local shelters to arrange transportation to and from the clinic for homeless individuals and tailor services for this population.

In addition to providing a full range of integrative, patient-centered healthcare tailored to the needs of the homeless, the clinic will provide an expansive forum for social services and community resources. Services will also include post-clinic engagement and follow-up care, all of which are special challenges for this population.

On November 16 and 17, Care Harbor will open to members of the general public who already have a wristband and have signed up for services.

Care Harbor was founded in July of 2010 as a California-based nonprofit charity, with the vision that free health clinic events could be transformed from episodic to sustainable care.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas welcomes some of the youngest patients at Care Harbor.  Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors