Thousands of individuals find themselves homeless in greater Boston every year. Among them are chronically ill adults, veterans, families, youth, and the elderly. They are the people who stay in emergency shelters or motel rooms, eat in soup kitchens, or visit drop-in centers. They are also the men and women who find themselves on the streets, trying to survive in makeshift shelters under bridges, down alleyways, and behind city buildings.

Over 11,000 homeless individuals are cared for by Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program each year. We are committed to ensuring that every one of these individuals has access to comprehensive health care, from preventative dental care to cancer treatment. Our clinicians, case managers, and behavioral health professionals work in more than 45 locations to deliver the highest quality health care to some of our community’s most vulnerable—and most resilient—citizens. BHCHP provides care without regard to race, color, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability, veteran status, military service, national origin, immigration status, genetic information or marital status.

Stories from the Shadows: Reflections of a Street Doctor
by Dr. Jim J. O'Connell

Dr. O'Connell’s collection of stories and essays, written during thirty years of caring for homeless persons in Boston, gently illuminates the humanity and raw courage of those who struggle to survive and find meaning and hope while living on the streets.

Learn more about the book.

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A fastidious man in his 50s, Sam loves reading romantic comedies and keeping his apartment neat and organized. But, when you look in his eyes, you know his life has not always been so orderly.

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The Care Zone team pairs veteran outreach workers with a doctor and a case manager. Ribeiro and Mackin, veteran street workers, typically make the first contact with an occupied sleeping bag. Dr. Jessie Gaeta, chief medical officer with the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, approaches once it’s clear that a new face won’t send the person back into hiding. She knows many of these prospective patients feel shunned by mainstream medicine.

"We’re trying to let people know we’re not there to arrest them. We’re not there to clean up their encampment and kick them out," Gaeta says. "All we want to know is, do we have something you need and want, and if we do, great, here it is. And so we gradually build a relationship that way."

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