100 Ways: Health


Published May 13, 2019 1:34 PM

Health of the Homeless


Thirty-six years ago, when the Union Rescue Mission asked whether the UCLA School of Nursing would consider offering care to its residents, the school took a leap into uncharted territory.

Little was known then about the health issues facing the homeless. Skid Row, only 15 miles to the east of UCLA, felt like a world away. But the endeavor fit with the School of Nursing’s mission of transforming nursing care in a rapidly changing and diverse environment.

The partnership resulted in the UCLA School of Nursing Health Clinic at the Union Rescue Mission, a nurse-managed clinic providing acute and primary care, on-site medications and basic lab work. One of the oldest and largest of its kind in the country, the clinic serves as a national model for delivery of health care to the poor and the homeless.

It remains one of only a few full-time clinics in the Los Angeles area to serve these populations. Two nurse practitioners and two licensed vocational nurses staff the facility, providing care alongside UCLA nursing and medical students who receive valuable training during their tenure at the clinic.

Since its founding, the clinic has logged more than 250,000 patient visits. Last year alone, staff cared for more than 2,500 men, women and children. Many clients suffer from medical conditions exacerbated by their time on the streets. Harsh environments and a lack of regular care often lead to complex health conditions and such chronic diseases as diabetes and high blood pressure.

“When you don’t know where you’ll get your next meal or where you’ll sleep each night, it’s hard to focus on your health,” says Linda Sarna ’69, M.N. ’76, dean of the School of Nursing. “The clinic takes people who have been marginalized in the health-care system and provides them with a holistic approach to care.”

Black Truths Matter

L.A. Rebellion

Filmmaker Charles Burnett ’69, M.F.A. ’77 grew up in Watts, in South Los Angeles. “Downtown Watts was a mecca back then,” Burnett recalled in UCLA Magazine. “You had black businesses all over. It was like being in Harlem. It was a really fun place.”

Charles Burnett was a leader of L.A. Rebellion in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

However, by the time Burnett enrolled at UCLA in 1967, his community had changed. Watts was the scene of the most iconic of urban riots that roiled American cities during the Civil Rights era. Burnett was soft-spoken and gentlemanly, hardly the image of a revolutionary. And yet he became arguably the most visible member of L.A. Rebellion, a small group of African- American and African student filmmakers who arrived at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television in the early 1960s. The most widely known L.A. Rebellion film is Burnett’s Killer of Sheep, the story of a physically and emotionally exhausted slaughterhouse worker and his family who try to live with dignity amid crushing poverty.

The group also included Haile Gerima ’72, M.F.A. ’76 (Bush Mama), Larry Clark M.F.A. ’81 (Passing Through), Billy Woodberry M.F.A. ’82 (Bless Their Little Hearts), Ben Caldwell M.F.A. ’77 (I and I), Alile Sharon Larkin M.F.A. ’82 (A Different Image), Julie Dash M.F.A. ’85 (Daughters of the Dust) and Jamaa Fanaka ’73, M.F.A. ’79 (Welcome Home, Brother Charles).

These storytellers didn’t see their stories and experiences on the screen, particularly in the popular “blaxploitation” Hollywood studio films that were being marketed to urban African-American audiences. The filmmakers set out to tell stories that reflected their lives and communities.

Burnett’s masterpiece is regarded as one of the most significant first features in American cinema. Many of the group’s other works made history but never made it to mainstream American theaters.

Says UCLA Film & Television Archive director Jan-Christopher Horak, “To my knowledge, it is the only movement of filmmakers that has come out of a film school.”