Taking Care of Clients - One "Step" at a Time

October, 2011

As we have shared with our readers and donors in the past, one of the biggest issues facing homeless people in Toronto is wear and tear on their feet. It is an endless battle to maintain the health of one's feet while enduring life on the streets. Days spent walking from one service to another mean shoes have a short life span. Also, foot ailments if left untreated can lead to chronic disorders.

Allana Sullivan of Street Health Treating FeetOnce again, Street Health has effectively responded to an acute need in the homeless community. Recently Allana Sullivan, one of the members of the nursing team, completed her certification in Advanced Nursing Foot Care at Georgian College, qualifying her to delivery more in-depth care for people who are experiencing serious issues with their feet. Congratulations Allana! Now, in addition to our regularly scheduled nursing clinics and outreach visits, we are able to offer specified foot care clinics to our clients. Street Health has joined forces with EcuHomes, St. James Cathedral, and Margaret Fraser House where Allana is now contributing her foot care knowledge and skills for those who are homeless or under housed in downtown Toronto.

Allana treats a wide variety of foot-related aliments including calluses, corns, warts and severely ingrown nails. Diabetic ulcers are also quite frequently seen on the feet of homeless people. With diabetes comes a lack of sensation in the feet.

Consequently a small stone in a person's shoe may not be felt and as it rubs away at the skin, open wounds occur. The presence of diabetes also slows down the healing process, so constant care to prevent infection is extremely important. Allana works diligently to manage these wounds in order to avoid these and other serious health issues.

Isolation and loneliness are often hallmarks of a life lived on the street. Many people go long periods of time without the experience of a sociable conversation or a friendly touch. The foot care clinics offer rare opportunities for someone to sit and speak to Allana in an unhurried, therapeutic environment. "I love being able to provide the pleasure that comes with soaking sore, tired feet in warm, soapy water. It's a huge deal for them”, says Allana.

Street Health Treating FeetRecently an elderly man hobbled into the foot care clinic, barely able to walk. It was evident that his feet were causing him a lot of pain. After soaking his feet and treating his badly ingrown toenails, the man slipped on his shoes and did a little dance right in the middle of clinic! His nails had been so long that they had been slicing into his toes as well as making his shoes extremely tight. As a result of his advanced age and lack of mobility he had been unable to do anything about it himself. Allana was able to give him back his mobility through her expert foot care.

"The need for this type of service in the community is huge and can make such an impact on a person's life”, say Allana. It is a fact that foot health is an integral part of the overall health of our bodies. Our feet carry our entire weight and move us through the world. Our mobility, gait and balance depend on good foot health and can compound other health issues - especially within the elderly population.

Although we have probably all experienced what it is like to spend an entire day in uncomfortable shoes, it is difficult to imagine what it must be like to have severe blisters that only get worse and sores that cannot heal. Street Health is committed to working with our community partners to provide a basic yet vital service to our clients.

For many people on the street a pair of dry socks is an infrequent luxury. As a means of enhancing this new nursing service, Street Health would like to be able to distribute a pair of socks to each person who is treated at our foot care clinics, but we need your help. If you would like to make a donation to this fund or you would like to donate 10 or more pairs of new socks, please contact amanda@streethealth.ca or call 416 921 8668 x229. Thank you so much for your support!