PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Students at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing are heading out of the clinics and into the camps.
A class of about 60 students, and six faculty members, helped clean up three of Peoria’s homeless camps Thursday. Students said the outreach was a partnership with JOLT Harm reduction and Lula Not-For-Profit.
Many students ditched the scrubs to clean up scraps, contorting through twigs and bracing through branches in woodland areas, helping pick up the trash littering the ground.
“It’s definitely an adventure climbing through the woods and picking up trash,” Taylor Lawson, a graduating student, said. “It’s sometimes hard to believe that there are people out here who have to live in these conditions.”
Lawson said this was her second time out with JOLT and the outreach to the homeless shows an outpouring of support.
“Let them know that there are people who care about them in the community and resources for them as well,” Lawson said.
She said during their outreach, they’d also spent time with people in the homeless community who belong to a group called “Street Fam.” She said those in this community praise the work being done by JOLT and LULA.
“Many of them will tell you that JOLT is the only reason they’re alive and are the only people who care about them,” Lawson said. “So, it’s just kind of showing them that there are other people in the community who care about them as well.”
Volunteers filled bags to the brim, and Peoria Public Works helped dispose of the trash. Bronwyn Knight, another graduating student, said Thursday was her third time out with JOLT.
“Every time it’s just been very eye-opening and they do so many amazing things and provide so many services to lots of different populations of people and Peoria’s definitely better from their involvement,” Knight said.
She said the outreach also helps clear up stigmas among the homeless population and healthcare.
“I think this helps us as we start our careers to treat them as we would every other patient and be able to provide the services that they need,” Knight said.
Kshe Bernard, a co-founder of LULA, said there’s also a deeper meaning to lending a helping hand.
“If outreach is for you it’s hard to stop,” Bernard said. “Once you see this world and what’s happening it’s hard to not see it and not care.”