Nfld. & Labrador

Sex workers, homeless to benefit from St. John's health outreach

The St. John's Status of Women council says a health outreach program for the city's downtown core will save money.
A street outreach program will help sex workers keep small health problems from becoming serious, according to the Status of Women council. (CBC)

The St. John's Status of Women council says a health outreach program for the city's downtown core will save money.

"We were absolutely ecstatic," said Jenny Wright.

"We've been advocating for this for a long time, especially through our program 'SHOP' which supports sex workers in the downtown. We know they have a lot of health issues but they're not accessing traditional health care, mostly because of stigma."

The Newfoundland and Labrador government announced Tuesday that it is hiring a street nurse and two family doctors to provide health care from a downtown location.

They will join forces with social workers and other agencies who already work with sex workers, the homeless, and people with addictions and mental health issues.

Wright said she expects this will actually end up saving the health care system money.

She said catching issues like infections early will avoid more serious problems later on.  

"If they had a street nurse that was trained in prevention work, trained in their needs, that could work with them from a harm reduction perspective, we know they will see huge improvements in their health," said Wright.

"So we are absolutely excited about this and we applaud it."

Housing group welcomes changes

She added that bringing care to the street is also important.

"A lot of people we work with live really chaotic lives. They can't necessarily make an appointment," she said.

"They don't have the means necessarily to go to the hospital."

Bruce Pearce works with a group that helps the homeless, and says a street based health program will help hundreds who live in poverty. (CBC)

Bruce Pearce, who works with the End Homelessness St. John's group, said about 800 people have been identified as being homeless.

"In our work, we know that housing is a key determinant of health," he said.

"We see this population as being one of the targets to receive services under this downtown collaborative."

There's no word on when the new health care team will be in place.

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