UW's new class to 'translate culture of homelessness' to med students | KUOW News and Information

UW's new class to 'translate culture of homelessness' to med students

Dec 27, 2016

The University of Washington is marking some firsts in its involvement with the homeless community.

The Seattle campus is hosting a tent camp for the next three months. On top of that, UW is offering a class on homelessness for health science students.

With the University of Washington's approval, a tent camp under the organization SHARE has set up in a campus parking lot.

Resident Lori Perry says it's a little smaller than some of their previous camps, but she likes the UW spot.

Perry: "Yeah it's a lot smaller, but we have electricity. So we're able to heat up our food whenever. We can have coffee all day to keep warm, so that's a big plus."

Starting January 5, university students will do outreach work at the camp as part of the new curriculum. UW Medicine faculty member Lois Thetford is leading the course. She has more than 40 years of experience offering health care to homeless people in Seattle.

Thetford: "No one wants to tell you that they're homeless, so people don't just come out and say 'I'm homeless', but everyone who sees patients sees homeless patients, whether they know they're homeless or not."

Thetford said it's also critical that medical and dental students know about unique needs of patients who are homeless. That's part of what they'll learn about in the 10 week course. She said where medical offices have translators for other languages, this course will work to be a translator to the culture of homelessness.

Thetford said she is hoping the university will host the class again, even once the tent city has left campus.

Both ideas, the tent camp and the related coursework, were inspired by a student group called Tent City Collective.