ProJo: My Turn: Craig Kaufmann: Learning to listen on Broad Street

Posted:Mar 8, 2018 at 5:47 PM

Updated:Mar 8, 2018 at 5:47 PM

I first met “John” in the Grace Church Cemetery, in Providence, just after sundown. He was a powerful figure rocking back and forth in front of a faded tombstone, with fresh cuts on his arms and a look of disbelief that we had stopped to talk with him. This would be one of many first “appointments” in what has become a weekly cornerstone of my work.

I have been a psychiatrist for nearly 12 years. I received solid training at Brown University and left residency feeling prepared and energetic. I began to work at ACCESS-RI, a program of the House of Hope, and Housing First Rhode Island, a program of the Kent Center. Both programs served chronically homeless Rhode Islanders, most of whom had complicated and chaotic conditions, pasts and lives. I worked in an office setting as part of a care team on the shared goals of stabilization, housing and health.

My efforts with participants in the programs helped, but there was still a segment being missed. Often, I would hear of and sometimes fleetingly even meet some of these more elusive folks. These were people who avoided the shelters and our programs; they seemed only to receive care when it was an emergency.

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