Mobile clinics bring healthcare to Cabot Square's homeless

Mobile clinics are providing healthcare to the homeless in Montreal's Cabot Square, with a focus on Indigenous peoples.

A new initiative from Doctors of the World is bringing healthcare directly to Indigenous homeless populations in Montreal. Two mobile clinics are visiting areas frequented by the homeless and they’ve been targeting Cabot Square.

Last year the area's Open Door shelter closed and since then the nurses who work out of the back of the van-turned-clinic say there’s been a huge increase in demand.

“There's a big, big difference,” says nurse Claudine Pringle. “We’ve seen an increase in violence and just in basic needs like food and bathroom facilities.”

Indigenous peoples make up one per cent of the city’s population, but represent about half of all visits to the clinic.

Often patients come in with basic injuries that have become aggravated because of a lack of clean, safe care. One of the most common is foot injuries from blisters or cuts becoming dirty and infected. The vans also have a rudimentary laboratory where nurses can take blood samples and perform tests for sexually transmitted infections.

The clinic travels to areas where there’s a lack of reliable services including Montreal North, Lachine and Pointe Saint Charles. The organization says while it aims to provide a more intimate and trusting setting for health care, ultimately it hopes those on the street will go to established hospitals. “It's important for us to be a door to the real system because the care is just better,” says clinic supervisor Penelope Boudreault.

The mobile clinics have been on the streets since 2014, but this is the first year they’re focusing on Indigenous peoples.