You Have to Learn to Listen: How a Doctor Cares for Boston’s Homeless Population

Though homelessness is a difficult subject to discuss, it’s a growing issue in cities like Boston and must be addressed. Dr. Jim O’Connell, the head of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, has dedicated his life to providing care and resources to those living without a home.

Counteracting Premeditated Assumptions

Though people often jump to conclusions about those experiencing homelessness, Dr. O’Connell challenges this stigma and takes the time to really learn about the lives of his patients.

Providing Resources

In addition to providing medical care for his patients, Dr. O’Connell makes sure to also equip them with resources and knowledge to prevent further homelessness in the future. This includes helping them build credit, finding them more permanent housing accommodations, and connecting them with mental health services and addiction treatment.

Creating Connections

The most important tenet of Dr. O’Connell’s care is creating a connection with his patients. He stresses understanding their personal stories and individual backgrounds in order to treat them with the care and respect they deserve. He says “You have to learn to listen… to think with the person, not for the person. That’s a different skill set than diagnosis and treatment”.

Building a Healthy Community

Dr. O’Connell’s dedication to his patients has transformed their lives and the lives of so many homeless individuals in the Boston area. By taking the time to really talk to and connect with his patients, Dr. O’Connell has been able to create an environment of respect and trust, which has enabled them to build better and healthier lives.

As Dr. O’Connell demonstrates, empathy is key when providing care for those living without a home. Taking the time to truly understand the individual person and their circumstances is the best way to create connections and provide support.