Suitcase Clinic

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Suitcase Clinic Logo (est. 1989)

The Suitcase Clinic (est. 1989) is a student-run 501(c)(3) nonprofit free clinic operating out of four drop-in centers in Berkeley, California, US. Volunteers offer health and social services to unhoused and underserved community members. It's unique student-run model has inspired the creation of similar organizations at other universities, such as the UCSD Student-Run Free Clinic Project and the UCLA Mobile Clinic.

Motto: advocacy, community, and solidarity

History[edit]

The Suitcase Clinic[1] was founded in 1989 by first-year medical students in the Joint Medical Program between UCSF and UC Berkeley. It was born from the idea that unhoused individuals did not utilize existing social and medical services because of the lack of accessibility. Students created a mobile clinic that would travel directly to clients and provide holistic health and social services; the supplies were carried in suitcases, which lead to the name “The Suitcase Clinic.”[2] Over the course of the next 30 years - to present day, the Clinic has evolved to become a space organized primarily by undergraduate volunteers from UC Berkeley, operating out of four different clinics (General, Womxn’s, Youth/LGBTQ+, Beth El). Each clinic offers a variety of services that are specifically catered to each population. Outside of the clinic space, Suitcase Clinic has expanded into two other areas, in hopes to touch upon the motto of: advocacy, community, and solidarity. Undergraduate volunteers prepare and lead an on-campus course each semester that introduces new volunteers to the intersectionalities of different institutions upon houselessness. Volunteers are also encouraged to take an active role in “Task Forces” with concentrations in Advocacy, Outreach, Diversity & Inclusion, Mental Health, Art + Music, and Animal/Pets.[3]

Clinic Spaces[edit]

General Clinic[edit]

The General Clinic [4](operating out of the First Presbyterian Church on 2407 Dana Street, Berkeley, CA) is the oldest clinic. It is open to all community members. While the clinic is open, student volunteers engage in various services including but not limited to cooking dinner, haircutting and hair washing, foot washing, providing hygiene supplies, massage, laundry services, community resources and employment referrals, housing referrals and assessments, legal services, blood pressure monitoring, wellness programs, and music and arts programs.

Womxn's Clinic[edit]

The Womxn's Clinic (operating out of LIFE Adventist Church on 2236 Parker Street, Berkeley, CA) opened in 1996 with hopes of creating a safe space for low-income/unhoused female-identifying individuals and children. While the clinic is open, student volunteers engage in various services including but not limited to cooking dinner, haircutting and hair washing, foot washing, providing hygiene supplies, massage, community resources and employment referrals, housing referrals and assessments, legal services, blood pressure monitoring, wellness programs, nail painting, children's services/care.

Youth/LGBTQ+ Clinic[edit]

The Youth/LGBTQ+ Clinic[5] (operating out of St. Mark's Episcopal Church on 2300 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA) opened in 2000 with hopes of tailoring services and resources towards youth, teens, and folks in their 20s that were experiencing homelessness. While the clinic is open, student volunteers engage in various services including but not limited to cooking dinner, haircutting and hair washing, foot washing, providing hygiene supplies, massage, community resources and employment referrals, housing referrals and assessments, legal services, blood pressure monitoring, wellness programs, nail painting, and group discussions.[6]

The Congregation Beth El[edit]

What began as a monthly free dinner for community members grew into a clinic space in 2019, as coordinators reached out to the Suitcase Clinic to begin expanding into medical and health services during these regular events.

Community Partners[edit]

UCSF Joint Medical Program (JMP)[edit]

The medical students at the JMP program continue to staff and provide services at each of the drop-in centers. Services include but are not limited to optometry vouchers, medical check-ins, and prescriptions.

City of Berkeley[edit]

The Suitcase Clinic has a many year partnership with the City of Berkeley, as an official community agency of the City, the clinic is allocated around ten thousand dollars every year to continue it's operations in the area.[7]

Berkeley Outreach Coalition[edit]

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Suitcase Clinic in collaboration with local nonprofits created the Berkeley Outreach Coalition[8]. Members of the coalition worked together to streamline homeless outreach services, to various encampments in the Berkeley area including Ashby-Shellmound, Claremont, Gilman, and People's Park. Advocacy efforts to put a moratorium on tent evictions, and vehicular ticketing was pushed during the pandemic. Mobilization to outreach to the unhoused and provide hand-washing stations as well as masks and sanitization methods were made.

Berkeley Free Clinic[edit]

Community professionals, including those at the Berkeley Free Clinic [9]provide services like massage, osteopathic manipulative medicine, HIV/Hepatitis Testing, acupuncture, counseling, chiropractor services.

References[edit]

  1. Steinbach, Alan; Swartzberg, John; Carbone, Verona (May 2001). "The Berkeley Suitcase Clinic: Homeless Services by Undergraduate and Medical Student Teams". Academic Medicine. 76 (5): 524. doi:10.1097/00001888-200105000-00058. ISSN 1040-2446.
  2. "History". The Suitcase Clinic. Retrieved 2020-11-30.
  3. Staff, Elizabeth Neoman | Senior (2018-04-08). "How the Suitcase Clinic bridges the divide between communities". The Daily Californian. Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  4. "Suitcase Clinic — General Clinic | Health Care – Alameda County, California". Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  5. "The Suitcase Clinic - The Youth Clinic, Berkeley Free Clinic". freeclinicdirectory.org. Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  6. contributor, Guest (2014-04-18). "At the Write Home Project, the young homeless are heard". Berkeleyside. Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  7. "City Budget - City of Berkeley, CA". www.cityofberkeley.info. Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  8. Staff, Jacob Souza | Senior (2020-04-10). "Berkeley homeless community struggles amid COVID-19, city responds". The Daily Californian. Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  9. Dinkelspiel, Frances (2014-03-04). "Years of work culminate in new Berkeley medical clinic". Berkeleyside. Retrieved 2021-01-08.


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