Every Sunday the courtyard at First Presbyterian Church in downtown San Diego is filled with people, but they aren’t there for a traditional worship service. Instead, dozens of people experiencing homelessness line up to receive help and services, such as haircuts, meals and even medical care.
“Homeless patients sometimes have difficulty trusting establishment, and health care is one of them," said Dr. Aram Harijan.
Harijan has a private practice, but he is passionate about using his skills and knowledge to help those living on the streets.
“I was once homeless when I was 19, shortly after high school," said Harijan.
Originally an immigrant from Korea who made his way to North Carolina, Harijan said he spent about six months living in his car after he experienced domestic violence at home.
"I have really lived the American dream," said Harijan when elaborating on why he dedicates his time to volunteering.
Not only can patients be treated by doctors at the free clinic, but they can also take first aid supplies with them they might need, such as Narcan, bandages, vitamins, medicine and more.
“As the nation with the most amount of resources, we can try to provide equitable health care for everyone," said Harijan.
One person he treated at the free clinic said he is grateful for doctors like Harijan, who helped him with a brown recluse spider bite. “Living in a shelter there’s a lot of things that we can pick up,” said Brendan Lulofs.
Harijan hopes the stigma around people experiencing homelessness can evolve, and that more health care options will be offered to those in need.
This story was originally published by Natalie Chuck at Scripps News San Diego.