Kara Cohen leans out of a car window, shouting to a familiar face walking along a North Philadelphia street. As a nurse practitioner and medical director of Project HOME‘s street medicine team, Cohen provides wound care, addiction treatment and life-saving care right on sidewalks and under bridges.
Cohen and her colleague, specialist outreach worker Sam Santiago, log long days driving Project HOME vans through the neighborhood, along with additional nurses and outreach workers from the organization. They build trust and relationships with people experiencing homelessness, intervening with medical crisis care but also managing chronic illnesses.
It’s emotionally heavy work. “We’re on the frontlines in a war,” reflects Cohen. But small victories stick — a patient newly open to rehab, news that someone got housed. Project HOME can now reach more people thanks to policy changes enabling insurance reimbursement for these street medicine services.
Other providers are also taking to the streets, like Dr. Jeffrey Martin’s team with Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health. Nurses with the Family Service Association of Bucks County also provide street medicine despite it not yet being reimbursable.
As the homelessness crisis ravages cities, these street angels and their organizations perform lifesaving work one person at a time. Project HOME, Penn Medicine, Family Service Association – their street medicine teams take flight each day into the fray.