Nursing Volunteers at Drop-In Center

BOSS recently had two nurse volunteers at the Multi-Agency Service Center (MASC) in downtown Berkeley; Omar Aljundi and Sarah Dobbins. It was great to have them on site as they provided services to some of the most at-risk individuals in our community. During their time at the Drop-In Center the students provided much-needed services such as basic testing on blood pressure, diabetes, and treatment for minor topical infections. They also provided referrals to local clinics for follow-up on serious medical needs.

After they completed their tenure at the MASC, they shared some of their insights and findings about our community.

Many individuals experiencing homelessness have serious medical concerns. Health issues prevalent in our community are dermatologic infections, arthritis, diabetes, and sleep deprivation – all disorders that are either completely preventable, or better controlled in housed populations. The most prevalent medical concern seen was hypertension, also known as high blood pressure. Omar and Sarah sited two sources “hypertension is the most common chronic physical health problem encountered among homeless persons. The material conditions of homelessness greatly complicate the management of this disorder.” (Kinchen, & Wright, 1991) and “Hypertension remains one of the most important preventable contributors to disease and death in the US.” (JAMA Network, 2014).

Braking down the numbers: Omar and Sarah took 73 readings. Of the individuals seen 79% identified as male and 63% identified as black, 86% do not take blood pressure medication, 48% identify as smokers, and 52% do not have a primary care physician.

According to The Health Care for the Homeless Clinicians’ Network (HCH): Nurses are on the “front lines” of providing care to people experiencing homelessness. Nurses and nurse practitioners account for 37% of the Health Care for the Homeless Clinicians’ Network membership. (HCH, 2005)

Community Nursing Diagnosis: “Increased risk of premature mortality from cardiovascular disease and/or stroke among people experiencing homelessness related to chronic, unmanaged hypertension as demonstrated in the high proportion of elevated blood pressures.”

This is great information – important to document and know. The bigger picture, however, is the personal interaction that Omar and Sarah had with the people dropping-in at the MASC. Through working so closely with members of the BOSS community, these two individuals can see that every person, every story, every outcome for a person experiencing homelessness is different. Stereotypes are easy, and they are cop-outs. Our community is made up of moms and dads, addicts and con-artists, doctors and lawyers, the afflicted and the well. There are people who just need a moment to recollect themselves and who have the support and resources to quickly (though, never easily) climb out of homelessness, and then there are others for whom merely subsisting is deeply challenging. Omar and Sarah will take this knowledge, and the experience of having worked with and befriended individuals in our community who are greatly at-risk, and it will change them, change their thoughts, opinions, and actions.

We at BOSS are so grateful to Omar and Sarah for all their hard work and dedication to our community. We wish them well and hope that their studies are fruitful.

If you wish to volunteer with BOSS at the MASC or at other programs, please contact Sonja Fitz at either or 510.649.1930 x 1008