Sacramento County's homeless population faces numerous challenges, from lack of housing to limited access to essential healthcare services. Recognizing the need for medical assistance in this community, the Sacramento Loaves & Fishes Mercy Clinic offers primary care services. Operating under the Health Care for the Homeless program
, this clinic has been a vital lifeline for those in need.
The clinic operates during the first part of the day Monday through Friday. Staff provide wound care, tuberculosis testing, and help people navigate health services. The dedicated team of doctors and Public Health Nurses ensure the medical needs of their clients are met.
The current form of the Sacramento Loaves & Fishes Mercy Clinic was established in 2020. However, workers with Sacramento County's Primary Care and Public Health Departments have been offering medical assistance to the unhoused for decades.
Located within Loaves & Fishes
, the clinic serves as a beacon of hope for those who have fallen through society's cracks. The location allows unhoused individuals to easily access care where they are. The clinic also serves as a reminder of Sacramento County's long-standing commitment to helping the homeless community. The clinic's experienced professionals understand the unique challenges faced by this population, and they strive to ensure everyone gets the care they deserve.
“I truly believe that healthcare is a basic human right and that everyone, regardless of their housing status, deserves access to care," says Dr. Kirti Malhotra.
Dr. Malhotra has been working with the unhoused population for more than a decade. And she is not the only friendly face clients are welcomed with when they go to the clinic. The entire team at Sacramento Loaves & Fishes Mercy Clinic echoes Dr. Malhotra's sentiment. Leading the team is Dr. Susmita Mishra, an experienced physician dedicated to serving the homeless population. Her leadership and expertise help drive the clinic's mission of providing compassionate care. The team also puts a heavy emphasis on building trusting relationships. Many patients have experienced a lack of trust in the system due to past negative experiences.
“So many of our patients come to us and they've had so many things happen to them, so they don't trust the system," says Dr. Malhotra. “We want them to know that we will work with them and that we care about them. We are there to support them and not judge them."
Part of that support goes beyond offering medical services. The clinic collaborates with community resources and shelters to help unhoused individuals seek comprehensive care. Transportation vouchers are provided to facilitate visits to labs and radiology services. Medications are available at the clinic based on insurance coverage. The staff considers not only the immediate needs but also the long-term well-being of its clients. The team looks at the patient's ongoing health requirements. Unmanaged chronic diseases and mental health conditions are common among the unhoused population.
“We often have to be very resourceful in the way we manage patients because they may not have access to the same things as other people. They might not have access to a fridge for their medication," explains Dr. Malhotra.
Because of the wide range of individual needs, the team creates individualized care plans that address each patient's needs. It's not a one-size-fits-all approach but rather tailored care that respects the limitations of unhoused individuals.
“We build rapport and trust. You have to listen to them. So often, they are being rushed to one place after another. Incorporating that into our care goes a long way. Patients come back," says Dr. Malhotra.
Even though the clinic has been operating for years, the doctors and nurses still want to get the word out so they can assist more people in need. All unhoused patients are welcome at the clinic. Patients simply sign their names at the front of the clinic and are seen on a first-come, first-served basis. Once they are signed in, a nurse will introduce themselves, take vitals, and accompany the patient to a doctor.
In cases where clients are seriously ill or have serious injuries, physicians quickly assess the situation. Depending on the severity, they either arrange for an ambulance or taxi to pick up the patient so they can get more extensive medical treatment.
The doctors and nurses at Sacramento Loaves & Fishes Mercy Clinic understand that access to proper medical and mental health care is essential for the homeless population to find and sustain housing. When homeless individuals are healthy, they are more likely to be in a better mindset to seek and engage with housing services, helping break the cycle of homelessness.
“Just knowing that there is a place for them to go if they need support or care makes a significant difference," says Dr. Malhotra.
By addressing the healthcare needs of the homeless and breaking down barriers, the Sacramento Loaves & Fishes Mercy Clinic offers hope, healing, and a path toward a brighter future for all it serves. The clinic's unwavering dedication to the community sets an inspiring example for compassionate healthcare provision, and it underscores the importance of extending support and care to those who need it most.