Street Medic Team Treats Cowtown’s Homeless

Joel Hunt
Joel Hunt | Image by JPS Health Network

Mobile medics have been making the rounds in Fort Worth, providing people living on the streets, homeless encampments, and parks with medical care.

The street medicine team led by Joel Hunt has come to know thousands of homeless people in Cowtown over the past years. The program began in 2013 under JPS Health Network but has now been placed under Acclaim Physician Group, which is owned by JPS.

As Hunt explained in an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, while homeless people and vagrants tend to have many of the same health issues as people with housing, they tend to go longer without treating them. This can exacerbate several conditions, leading to serious complications that require emergency care.

The street medicine program began with the goal of reducing the number of homeless people unnecessarily seeking treatment in Fort Worth’s emergency rooms. According to Hunt, direct intervention is for the best since many of the individuals he encounters have had bad experiences with institutions, whether in hospitals or jails.

“We’re in their home. They’re the ones that are in control of the environment,” Hunt claimed, per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “When they come into the clinic, we’re the ones in control, and they’re yet again reminded of their powerlessness.”

The street medicine team has helped Ace Diamond, 35, manage her epilepsy, depression, and issues with substance abuse. She is now in recovery and will be moving into an apartment soon — her first stable lodging in years.

Glen Haines, 50, has been a patient of the street medicine team for years and credits them with saving his life. Ronald Northern, 49, who struggles with arthritis, has decreased his ER visits thanks to the mobile clinic. Managing his pain has been vital to his working odd jobs and getting back on his feet after living several years on the streets.

“Without them, I wouldn’t be able to cure these ills that ail me and move around and do the things that I have to in order to get myself back in standing in society,” said Northern, per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Homelessness and vagrancy are growing problems in North Texas, with an estimated 3,000 people living on the streets in Tarrant County alone — a 22% jump from 2020. In Dallas, where the downtown area has seen growing crime and vagrancy rates, the Dallas City Council recently appeared to prioritize bolstering “affordable housing” efforts while reducing proposed spending on homelessness initiatives in the 2024 Bond Program.

Recent surveys show that Dallas residents are dissatisfied with the City’s response to the issues of homelessness, vagrancy, and panhandling. Meanwhile, council members have expressed interest in developing City-sanctioned homeless encampments.

Polling shows that Dallas residents are supportive of the “one-stop shop” model utilized by Haven for Hope in downtown San Antonio. The model has been credited with a 77% reduction in unsheltered homelessness in that area, as previously covered by The Dallas Express. Some local stakeholders are working to launch the model. However, it is unclear whether City officials will support the effort.

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