UB HEALS Helping Homeless Put Their Best Feet Forward

Published December 19, 2019

UB HEALS, a street medicine outreach initiative of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, held a foot clinic Dec. 5 for Buffalo’s homeless population.

Foot Problems Overlooked Issue of Homeless

It provided new boots, socks, foot-care kits and medical consultations at the event conducted at the Holy Cross Shelter at Holy Cross Church on Seventh Street.

Each year, approximately 5,500 people are homeless in Western New York. The majority of these individuals are without permanent shelter due to circumstances anyone could face — including house fires, evictions, job loss, health issues and domestic disputes.

One of the most significant, but often overlooked, issues homeless people face is foot problems. Studies suggest that on average, homeless people spend 4 1/2 hours on their feet each day.

Buffalo’s Winters Can Be Especially Harsh

When lack of money prevents them from buying adequate shoes and socks, numerous problems arise, from fungal infections to ingrown toenails to significant deformities.

In people with diabetes, foot problems can be even more serious.

“These folks have to be on the move all the time, and they are in dire need of shoes that will not only support them but also withstand Buffalo’s winters,” says Reema Panjwani, public relations manager for UB HEALS and a second-year medical student.

Constantly Engaging Underserved Population

UB HEALS — which stands for Homeless health, Education, Awareness, and Leadership in Street medicine — began in spring 2016.

The student-run organization aims to increase access to health care for the homeless population of Buffalo while providing educational experience to medical students.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, medical student volunteers go out into the community, visiting sites where homeless people gather, providing free, on-the-spot medical care.

They are constantly handing out hygiene care kits, socks, hats, gloves and other warm winter wear, heavily relying on donations.

The group’s aim is to engage with an underserved population and reconnect them to the health care system.