by Suzanne Minor, MD, FAAP
The subject of the email read “MDC Commissioners Meeting to Address the Homeless,” the body asking me to attend the Commissioners Meeting to describe my challenges in dealing with the “homeless situation in our area” in order to force the Homeless Trust to allocate dollars to target the Miami homeless populations. Common scenes in the nearby downtown Miami waterfront public park included all manner of dogs and owners frolicking in their respective packs, designer-clad joggers and boot campers, tourists snapping photos, parents hovering near toddlers, and men and women rolling out blankets or spreading out cardboard for the night. This email started me to seriously reflect on the homeless living in the park.
I’ve lived in this area for 10 years now. There are more homeless now than when we moved in, displaced to the local park by museum construction. At first, it was awkward as the pristine park felt overrun with this new population. For a time, I even avoided the park in the evenings, not wanting to be reminded of the poor after working to provide healthcare for them in the face of great obstacles in my professional life throughout the day. Looking at the homeless in the park was painful, bringing up feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, failure – providing health care for the poor of Miami was so difficult. For any patients in the county safety net system, subspecialty appointments might take 6-12 months patients and if homeless, those patients might not get the appointment notification at the shelter address they gave until after the appointment was actually scheduled. Just to see me as a walk-in patient required them to spend hours in the waiting room to be fit in to the day’s census. Work was like constantly climbing a steep hill without the necessary gear or support. And seeing those patients at night reminded me of this defeat and wore at my reserves.Read More »