SEATTLE – A team of University of Washington medical and public health students are hitting the streets to address a growing problem in the community -- healthcare for the homeless. The all-student volunteer program is called University District Street Medicine.
"We kind of run under this philosophy of if people were a little kinder to each other and actually listened to each other we'd all be a lot better off," said Krystal Koop.
When Koop was 13 years old, she left a dysfunctional home life in Alaska where she said substance abuse was rampant. Koop, 33, relied on friends and lived on the streets.
Now she's studying social work at the University of Washington and manages University District Street Medicine.
Volunteers in the program carry backpacks filled with water, socks, toothbrush and tooth paste, and hygiene kits to give to people who are homeless. A licensed clinician walks along and guides the students through basic first aid and vital sign checks.
The UW medical students are studying everything from nursing to pharmacy, physical therapy to social work. The students hope to use their growing medical expertise to address any health issues people living on the streets may have without going to a clinic.
Some of the problems the volunteers encounter can't be addressed with bandages and antiseptic. People who need prescription drugs or more serious treatment get referred to the right physician for care.
The program relies on volunteers and donations. The group's goal is to eventually set up a free student-run clinic.