Student-organized event bridges gaps between health and social services for some of Rhode Island’s most vulnerable populations.
More than 70 Brown undergraduate, graduate, and medical students spent the afternoon of Saturday, Oct. 15, at Burnside Park in Providence, offering medical care, food, and community resources to some of the city’s most vulnerable populations, including homeless, unemployed, and undocumented residents.
Organized by Warren Alpert Medical School students in partnership with House of Hope since 2016, the Burnside Park Health Fair is held each fall to support people facing homelessness with essential health and hygiene services. Volunteers also connect participants with resources focused on housing assistance, legal support, social security benefits, and transportation, among other areas.
On Saturday, hundreds of residents visited stations staffed by community organizations and student volunteers. Blood pressure and glucose monitoring, HIV and hepatitis C testing, flu vaccines, a foot clinic to address infections and pain, and information on how to administer naloxone to reverse an opioid overdose were among the offerings. The health fair is designed to meet the unique needs of individuals without secure housing.
Laura Jaworski, executive director of House of Hope—a community development corporation focused on addressing chronic homelessness in Rhode Island—said locating the health fair in Burnside Park ensures that services are visible and easily accessible for people who often lack transportation, time, or trust in seeking care.
“People are more likely to go to a health fair, because it’s a low barrier,” Jaworski said. “I can walk right up. I don’t have to make an appointment. I don’t have to wait. I don’t have to go into a building that might be filled with strange noises, smells or locked doors, all of which can be triggering and retraumatizing for people. I come as I am, and I get my need hopefully met right then and there.”