Last week, Liz Hirsch was still feeling the effects of the cold she developed in December. Sleeping in close quarters in the Rescue Mission wasn’t helping.

“I almost went to the E.R. last night, I felt so bad,” she wrote.

My email inbox filled with notes from readers, like this one:

“I wanted to let you know that there are resources available to prevent her from utilizing the ER!” wrote Amanda Brown, who coordinates a 40-foot RV that serves as a health clinic around San Diego. She works for St. Vincent de Paul Village Family Health Center, the medical partner agency for Father Joe’s Villages.

I thought I’d post some information from Brown and some of the other organizations around town that provide health care for homeless people. I’m just scratching the surface here, so leave a comment below with any resources you think people should know about.

Free/Low-Cost Clinics

• St. Vincent de Paul: Brown said the RV goes to a few set locations every week and patients can make an appointment (619.971.3800) or walk in to be seen if there’s time.

Patients pay on a sliding scale, but if they don’t have any income, like most of the clients, they qualify for free visits, Brown said.

Same goes for the agency’s main clinic on Imperial Avenue, where new patients can walk in to see a doctor if they arrive at 8:30 a.m. or 12:30 p.m. on weekdays.

• Family Health Centers San Diego: This is the medical clinic opening in the new permanent shelter and service center I wrote about last week.

Family Health Centers’ downtown clinic is moving from its Park Boulevard and Broadway location to the Connections facility at 6th and A. That new clinic will open part time on Jan. 21, and both locations will be open for part-time hours during the transition.

The services are often similarly free or on a sliding scale. Here are more details and phone numbers for the organization’s different locations.

When it’s completely open, the new downtown clinic will serve between 70 and 100 patients a day, said Family Health Centers’ Jennette Lawrence Shay. That’s more than the 50 to 70 patients per day the existing location can accommodate, Shay said.

• Nurses and nursing students from Cal State San Marcos set up a clinic for homeless and underserved patients on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on Saturday mornings in Ocean Beach.

• The “Project Homeless Connect” day coming up on Jan. 30 includes some health screenings, flu shots and dental exams for the people who come.


This health care information ties into my focus this week, to try to size up the homelessness sector here — what money gets spent?

Both Family Health Centers and St. Vincent de Paul receive federal “Healthcare for the Homeless” grant dollars.

Family Health Centers received more than $2.4 million last year. The organization put some of that toward its own clinics, mostly in downtown, Logan Heights and to its three mobile health clinics, which travel to the downtown and veterans winter tent shelters and to the Neil Good Day Center.

The rest it grants to other organizations throughout the county, like North County Health Services and Neighborhood Healthcare.


Beyond getting the word out to people like Hirsch, there are other limitations — like high demand.

For Family Health Centers, that’s perhaps the most exciting part of moving in to the new building.

“At the current clinic, we do turn people away every day,” Shay said. “That’s a lot in part because we don’t have the ability to grow there.”

This especially affects walk-in patients.

From the centers’ website:

The wait time for a walk-in visit varies between a few minutes to several hours, depending on the urgent needs of other patients. If there are more walk-in patients than the clinic is able to see, the medical staff will assess every patient and determine who must be seen that day and who can be scheduled for an appointment in the next few days.

I’m Kelly Bennett, reporter for Voice of San Diego. You can reach me directly at or 619.325.0531.

Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.

Kelly Bennett

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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