Tammy St. Denis believes a mobile outreach program saved her life.
“If it wasn’t for this bus, I probably would be dead right now,” said St. Denis, a recovering addict and former homeless Londoner.
In 2021 she started seeing professionals at London Intercommunity Health Centre (LIHC), and her life has turned around. She’s now housed, but still needs medical care.
Each Tuesday she has an assessment at the Health Outreach Mobile Engagement (HOME) Program which is a mobile clinic. HOME provides health services to people wherever they happen to be — shelters, encampments, housing, and in other community settings.
“I get…my blood pressure taken,” said St. Denis. “She [a nurse practitioner] prescribes my medication for me to help me get off the drugs completely, which is working fantastic.”
The retro-fitted bus parks outside First Baptist Church on Tuesdays, then heads to the east end on Thursdays.
Over the past year they’ve seen more than 1,000 unique clients, and prevented nearly 1,200 trips to the emergency room.
The HOME mobile outreach bus is parked outside First Baptist Church in London, Ont. on Jan. 31, 2023 (Brent Lale/CTV News London)
“We’re seeing folks today with frostbite wounds that are worse because of the cold and the damp and unable to get services other places,” explained Greg Nash, director of complex urban health at the LIHC. “This is a place where they feel comfortable. It’s a place where they’re able to access urgent and significant health care needs.”
The bus can provide all the same services as their local clinic.
“A lot of the folks that we see have very limited access to health care for various reasons,” said Brandi Tapp, the nurse practitioner on the bus. “Everything from exposure injuries like frostbite and hypothermia, to long standing chronic care issues, from diabetes untreated to COPD.”
The program started during the COVID-19 pandemic, but since then the homeless population in London has gone from 150 to more than 600. There are plans to add a second bus.
“We’re going to them because it’s hard for them to get anywhere when they’re carrying all their belongings,” said Nash.
The HOME mobile outreach bus is a clinic which travels around London, Ont. to provide health care to marginalized Londoners (Brent Lale/CTV News London)
Nash added, “When their belongings are in a tent, they’re unsecured. So this is a way for us to go to them so that we can provide those basic needs, those medical services and really emergency services that many of them require because of the circumstances.”
St. Denis said when attending the clinic, it’s best to be honest because it’s the best way to get exactly what you need.
“A lot of addicts and homeless people are afraid to go to the hospitals because of being judged,” said St. Denis. “When you come here, you don’t get judged. Just be straight up honest with the doctor.”
The bus delivers multiple health services two days a week. Three days a week, a SUV will be deployed to assist the HOME team in providing care to clients.