In summary

CalMatters health reporter Kristen Hwang discusses the health care crisis facing California’s homeless population with housing reporters.

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Few Californians have more severe health needs than people experiencing homelessness, but they’re also the least likely to get care.

In a state where nearly 174,000 people experience homelessness, less than a third of unhoused people enrolled in the state’s free insurance program have ever seen their primary care provider. 

Unhoused people experience much the same health issues as their housed neighbors — diabetes, heart disease, cancer — but they usually go untreated. The consequences are deadly. The life expectancy of an unsheltered person is 50, according to national estimates, nearly 30 years less than that of the average Californian.

Unhoused patient Danny Doran sits in the waiting area for the mobile clinic parked in Whittier Narrows Park on Nov. 17, 2022. Doran is being checked up after being assaulted near his encampment just a few days before. Photo by Larry Valenzuela for CalMatters

Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid agency, is trying to change that by funding and spurring the creation of street medicine teams, organizations that bring primary care out of hospitals and into encampments. There are only about 25 of those teams on California’s streets today.

Their life-saving efforts were the focus of recent reporting by CalMatters health reporter Kristen Hwang, who shadowed various doctors delivering care to unhoused communities up and down the state.

In the latest episode of Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis podcast, Hwang shares what she learned in her reporting with co-hosts Manuela Tobias, housing reporter for CalMatters, and Liam Dillon, housing reporter for The Los Angeles Times. In addition to Hwang’s analysis, listeners will hear the voices of people experiencing homelessness and the doctors serving them on this week’s episode.

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Manuela is the housing reporter for CalMatters. Her stories focus on the political dynamics and economic and racial inequities that have contributed to the housing crisis in California and its potential...