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Facing a Medical Emergency Alone

by | Sep 18, 2019 | Formation, Reflections, Systemic change

Medical emergencies

Have you ever had a medical emergency after hours? No one else is home. No one is picking up the phone. Maybe you can’t even get to the phone. It can be frightening! Many fortunate people rely on some sort of Medical Alert device. AARP, the well-known resource for over 38 million people over the age of 50, has a fine article on how to choose a Medical Alert system.

But what happens when someone who is homeless has a medical emergency and needs help right now? The untreated diabetic who goes into shock or any one of countless other emergencies. It can be like the man who was attacked on the way to Jericho… waiting for someone to pass by and help.

What systems are in place for a homeless person who needs medical help?

I have been thinking… It is wonderful that the Vincentian Family Homeless Alliance is committed to building homes for the homeless. However, working on long-term solutions does little for the person suffering an emergency night now.

Vincentians are both/and people. What do I do when I see a homeless person in a state of medical emergency right here and now? Probably I go through some kind of almost instant evaluation process.

  • What kind of immediate assistance is necessary and possible.
  • Am I equipped to address such an emergency?
  • What resources to turn to?

Resources for medical emergencies?

One of the key aspects of any emergency response is to know resources. The website “Invisible People“, long a pioneer in telling the stories of homeless people, has recently been publishing very practical articles that help in understanding the experiences of homeless people. They now offer a place for you to learn more about homelessness.

Here are some that address the issues of medical emergencies among the homeless.

Let me add one other question and a Vincentian resource. Where do homeless people go when they are released from the hospital after surgery? Depaul USA has a program in Philadelphia. At its Medical Respite program, Depaul partners with PHMC to provide recuperative care to homeless individuals who have been discharged from local hospitals.


Thinking about medical emergencies

  • Are there times when I have “walked on by” a person I suspected being in a medical emergency?
  • Am I afraid to get involved?
  • Do I know the best resources in my area?


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