Campus News

UB HEALS helps Buffalo’s homeless put their best feet forward

By BARBARA BRANNING

Published December 10, 2019

“These folks have to be on the move all the time, and are in dire need of shoes that will not only support them, but also withstand Buffalo’s winters.”
Reema Panjwani, public relations manager, UB HEALS, and student
Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Homelessness continues to be a pervasive problem in Buffalo.

Each year, approximately 5,500 people are homeless in Western New York. The majority of these individuals are without permanent shelter due to circumstances any one of us 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 the average homeless person spends four and a half hours on his or her feet each day. When lack of money prevents them from buying adequate shoes and socks, numerous problems arise, from fungal infections to ingrown toenails to significant deformities. Foot problems can be even more serious in people with diabetes.

Last Thursday, some of Buffalo’s homeless received new boots, socks, foot-care kits and medical consultations at a foot clinic organized by UB HEALS, a street-medicine outreach initiative of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB, at Holy Cross Shelter at Holy Cross Church on 7th Street on Buffalo’s Lower West Side.

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

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 and 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.

Last year the organization received a grant to buy shoes and foot care kits. The group has launched a to help sustain UB HEALS so it can provide care and relief — not just on Dec. 5, but for years to come.

The group’s efforts are paid for through an annual crowdfunding campaign. In 2018, UB HEALS raised more than $19,000. With these donations, students provided service to more than 1,000 individuals, including distributing medications, medical supplies and other necessities for living.

READER COMMENT

This is a tremendous thing to do for those less fortunate. As a UB community member, you make me proud.

Health and wellness are an important part of a sustainable, humane world. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Don L. Erb