About a dozen nursing students from Hartnell College set up a table and stacked foot care kits while others walked around the homeless encampment in Chinatown, inviting unhoused individuals to get information and a kit to keep their feet wound-free and warm on the afternoon of Wednesday, Nov. 24.
As part of their studies, Hartnell nursing students do a community project. They choose an area, investigate its needs, create a plan and implement it. Hugo Gutierrez, president of the Hartnell registered nurse 2022 cohort, says based on their findings they decided to put together a care package focused on foot health. They gathered donations and partnered with Closer Walk, a homeless outreach center on Soledad Street in the heart of the neighborhood, to implement their project. In addition to that, the students also collected information for future projects.
During the research process, nursing student Emily Biagini-Lee says she realized the importance of foot care for the homeless, especially because they don’t have access to bathrooms and running water. “We wanted to make sure that people were able to keep their feet warm and clean,” she says.
The care packages included socks, washcloths, soap, water, band-aids and Ziploc bags. Biagini-Lee says the cleaning and drying products could help lower the rate of infections in people's feet.
Little by little, people arrived and talked to the students. One of them was Manuel Perez, who’s been homeless for more than a year. “I haven’t experienced anything like this before,” Perez says. “I’m glad I could come by here and people can be nice to me.”
Biagini-Lee says they will also distribute informational binders in different businesses from the area that will include topics such wound care, diabetes and high blood pressure.
“We want to make sure that the information we’re giving them is about things that they feel they can do to help themselves,” she says.
Each nursing cohort chooses a different project and the one that enrolled this year is interested in working in Chinatown as well. Biagini-Lee says they are collaborating to keep this effort going and hopefully keep feet healthier.