Street medicine, made in Pittsburgh: A gritty, compassionate solution to everything that’s wrong with health care.

Editor’s Note: On behalf of PublicSource, writer Timothy Maddocks spent six days between October 2017 and February 2018 embedded with street medicine teams. He attended the 2017 International Street Medicine Symposium and interviewed more than three dozen street medicine practitioners, from Pittsburgh and beyond. Though the days are still warm as we publish this story, soon people experiencing homelessness will again be subject to severe drops in temperature. This story sheds light on how street medicine practitioners aim to help the population throughout the year and how it plays out at the most critical times.  

On a gray January morning, the team from Pittsburgh Mercy's Operation Safety Net follows the hollow sound of a dog barking in the distance to the tent that they’ve been looking for. And there it is, between the Allegheny River and the gravel bike trail: a mismatched collage of older tents and tarps, faded yellow and bright orange.