Using Street Outreach to Connect LGBTQ Homeless Youth to Free Medical Care

Young woman checks into a free clinicIn New York City, homeless youth of all gender identities and sexual orientations can receive free physical exams, personalized assessments, and treatment plans, thanks to a student initiative supported by a local Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) grantee.

Created for young people ages 18 and older, the Q Clinic is a joint project of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and MCCNY Charities, Inc., which receives funding through FYSB’s Street Outreach Program. MCCNY outreach workers help spread the word about the free clinic while they interact with young people on the street and participate in community events. Outreach workers also attend Wednesday night clinic hours to continue building trust with individual youth and to connect them to the organization’s other services.

Once they arrive at the Q Clinic, youth meet with a volunteer medical student, who can provide them with basic services, take their personal histories, and develop a treatment plan under the supervision of an attending physician. Available services include physicals, vaccines, rapid HIV testing, and access to no-cost medications. All volunteers have completed a sensitivity training on working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning patients, according to Executive Director William Morán-Berberena.

In addition to providing quality care, Q Clinic volunteers are committed to another aspect of their work—forming relationships with youth who may need extra time to trust them. Volunteers give patients all the time they need to discuss their unique situations and medical needs, and visit MCCNY’s homeless youth shelter to get to know residents and talk about the clinic’s benefits.

Street outreach workers play an important role in this relationship-building process, Morán-Berberena shares, since their jobs focus on approaching youth and giving them the information they need to seek help once they are ready. Understanding the ins and outs of youth engagement will help the Q Clinic grow, as more young people feel comfortable seeking out services.

“We know this clinic will grow organically,” Morán-Berberena says. “Right now, we are invested in establishing trust and engagement so we can be here for a very long time for our community.”

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