Tenderloin Health Van Serves the Communities Underinsured, Unisured, and Homeless Youth
But since a temporary closure of after-school services, and a revamping of community offerings at IHDC, the van has seen a drop-off in the numbers of local youth that utilize the van’s services.
Dr. Seth Ammerman, lead Medical Doctor of the Teen Health Van operation, believes that much of this can be attributed to getting the message out there. “A lot of people don’t know about the program, that it is free, and that it’s comprehensive,” he said.
The Teen Health Van serves locations in San Mateo and San Francisco counties, including stops in San Jose, East Palo Alto, Mountain View and San Bruno. Every first Tuesday of the month, the van parks at 375 Eddy, offering everything from immunizations and injury treatment to mental health, substance abuse, and nutrition counseling from 2pm to 7pm.
The goal of the van’s Eddy Street stop is simple: to make healthcare accessible to young residents of the Tenderloin.
“I think some adults, even if their kids have insurance, they don’t go out of their way to go to a clinic,” said Ammerman. “By going to them, in the neighborhood where they live, work, and play, and making it easy and convenient, kids are more likely to take advantage of the program. And importantly, most clinics don’t offer the comprehensive services we provide.”
One young woman who utilized the van’s services heard about it through the neighborhood grapevine.“Some friends of mine told be about the Teen Health Van, and that I could get free care there,” she said. “I went and they were really nice and helpful. Not only did they help me with my headaches and stomach aches, they caught me up on my shots, and talked with me about and gave me free birth control.”
But despite some traction, the van is still underutilized by the community.
According to Dean Oshida, Executive Director at IHDC, “When we had after school programming, we constantly had a captive audience on-site, and staff who talked to their friends in the neighborhood about the services the Health Van was offering. We didn’t need to get people in the door, they were already here.”
Since receiving funding from Metta this past January for IHDC’s health based programs, the two organizations have joined forces to try and publicize the van’s services and make local youth aware that free, comprehensive medical care is being made available.
New strategies may help the project reach a wider audience. With a new vision for 2015, including on-site groups, workshops and a health education texting project, the Teen Health Van anticipates a spike in participation and a range of new programs based on community input.
Drop-ins to the Teen Health Van are welcome, but participants are encouraged to schedule appointments with medical staff. The next visit is scheduled for Tuesday, April 7th, from 2pm to 7pm.
IHDC SCORES Soccer League Debuts at Civic Center
With the help of the San Francisco Department of Recreation and Parks, all four grass fields are transformed into soccer fields each Friday from 4-5pm, with all-boys, all-girls, and co-ed teams participating. Community-based organizations pick up the tab for youth to participate in SCORES opportunities, which are part of SFUSD’s ExCEL-funded after-school programs.
Generally, CBOs will subcontract out SCORES for either the spring or fall season, with a few utilizing them for the entire school year. Youth participating in SCORES’ citywide programs are eligible to practice soccer during after-school hours, work with their peers on self-designed community service projects, and participate in organized Saturday games, held at Crocker-Amazon’s turf fields.
The Civic Center league is focused on giving residents of District 6 access to more convenient playing fields, while still providing on-site support in all of their program areas. Instead of traveling out to Crocker-Amazon, the league’s participants are just a short walk away from the playing fields.
“We don’t have games at specific school sites, because we want the youth to see that it’s the whole neighborhood that’s a part of the program, and that they all share the same passion for playing soccer and writing poetry,” says Watanabe. “The most rewarding thing to see is the home away from home we have built with this community. They have this fun and safe place that is for them, where everyone knows each other. It’s like friends playing with friends.”
“We are trying to make goals and practice a lot to get a good sportsmanship patch,” says José, a fourth-grader at Tenderloin Community School and SCORES participant. His favorite parts of the games, he says, include trying to make goals, eating snacks, and taking advantage of the free books that SCORES gives out at the end of each game.
Currently, SCORES is fundraising for its Field of Dreams initiative, which helps install turf fields at participating school sites that only offer traditional asphalt playing surfaces. Redding Elementary School, at the edge of the Tenderloin, had its field converted through the program last year. SCORES says that the addition of turf has created a safer practice space, and gives neighborhood youth more opportunities to play and be active.
This summer, SCORES will offer two camps at Civic Center: July 13th-17th and July 20th-24th. The regular Civic Center soccer league will resume in early October of 2015. To get involved, volunteers are encouraged to contact after-school providers at participating school sites; those in the Civic Center area can also email Watanabe directly.
A Candid Interview with One Tenderloin Youth