Tzu Chi Medical Volunteers Provide Care to California’s Homeless Population

TIMA  |  January 22, 2019

With the rise of homelessness in America also comes the need for various services to help this most disadvantaged and overlooked population. Those who are homeless are often in need of food, clothing and a place to lay their heads at night, a place to shelter them from the elements. But they also often are in dire need of medical care, which because of their circumstances falls by the wayside. Without jobs or finances, medical care is often overlooked by many Americans and especially by our homeless population.

Many of those who are homeless previously had good lives, were married, had children and had good jobs. When the economy took a turn for the worse, it left many  people’s lives in shambles literally turning everything upside down.

As Tzu Chi means compassion and relief, the basic tenets of serving others are inspired by Dharma Master Cheng Yen. It is through love and compassion that Tzu Chi medical volunteers come together to help the homeless annually at the free clinic in Southern California.

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They work hand in hand with David Rosario, the winter shelter coordinator, who himself once homeless. 

I work with them to help them with everything that they need. I’ve been with them for seven years. Because I believe in what they do, how they help the homeless. Being homeless myself, they helped me a lot, and I wanted to give back.

Many homeless people face mental as well as physical hardship. While some do have jobs and health insurance that is often provided by the state, they continue to try to help their situations.

The time really caught me off guard and humbled me big time. It really did. And it’s kind of a good thing because...I get to see how people really eat and live.

The Tzu Chi volunteers help serve hot meals, provide blankets and educate those in Tzu Shao, its own youth group, about the travails of this often neglected group of people who are deserving of compassion and respect.

Following their meals, they fill out paperwork, have their blood pressure checked, and then they receive dental or medical care. In order to gain patients’ trust, Tzu Chi volunteer doctors must build relationships with patients in order to build trust and build confidence.

When a patient tells you everything, they’ll lead you to make a diagnosis almost 80 percent or 60 percent.

The Tzu Chi doctors continue to learn about the patients’ and their medical needs. To broaden their own training, they attend seminars and classes in order to become better doctors. It also helps the students to learn about humanity in the way they treat their patients.

“Once you have become a part of this, witnessing people who suffer more than you, when you come back you begin to realize how lucky you are,” says Chen.