After fourteen years, the prestigious International Street Medicine Symposium took place from 3 up till 6 October 2018 in Rotterdam. Health and social professionals from all over the world shared ideas how to improve social medical care and to learn from stories of homeless people and service providers. The event was organized by the Netherlands Street Doctors Group (NSG), the City of Rotterdam and the Street Medicine Institute (SMI) in the United States.
Homelessness deteriorates health problems
Around the world homelessness is a growing problem. Climate disasters, war and poverty push people into homelessness. Or people become of remain homeless due to lack of work and affordable housing, and poor prevention and access to debt control. These concerns particularly people who are burdened with social, mental, physical and intellectual problems, which might lose their home through domestic violence, psychiatric illnesses or addictions. Once homeless, health deteriorates and leads to an early death. Globally, homelessness is chronic social and medical crisis
Since the 1990s, the number of street doctors and street nurses and others who care about homeless populations has been growing. Internist and pioneer Dr. Jim Withers is the founder of street medicine in the US and has visited many professionals around the world and inspired them to go to the people in the streets and hide outs. Annually, health and social professionals come together and energize and refuel each other during the International Street Medicine Symposium.
Photo: Jim Withers (2nd left) during his visit to Rotterdam in May 2017, and Dutch Street Doctors Igor van Laere, Huub de Weerd en Marcel Slockers
Dutch streets experiences
The American organizing committee is responsible for three symposium days. During the host city day 4 oktober 2018 Dutch street lessons were presented to the world. With the theme: Is it tough to have less people sleeping rough? The Netherlands as an example of upstream street medicine.
In Rotterdam nobody should sleep rough
During the symposium the Rotterdam approach was shared as well. Herein, homeless people should sooner and faster be cared for and guided toward problem oriented housing and support. According to Major Ahmed Aboutaleb and the citizens of Rotterdam, nobody needs to sleep rough. Therefore, integrated services have been developed and include housing, income, daily activities and access to street doctor’s practices over the last decades. Together we can make a difference.