It can be hard to get a good night’s sleep, away from the comfort of your own bed. But imagine the impact that sleeping rough, couch-surfing or staying in a hostel, night after night, might have on a person’s back, neck and general health?
It’s a problem that troubled University of South Australia physiotherapy academic Katia Ferrar, so she put her mind to finding a solution. And, thanks to her hard work and help from a 2016 AMP Tomorrow Fund grant, homeless and disadvantaged people in Adelaide are now receiving the care they need in a welcoming and accessible setting.
Operating from the Salvation Army’s Pirie Street building, the pro bono Open Door Clinic is not only helping to improve the health of those in need, but it’s also providing a rewarding experience for undergraduate students who volunteer there under the supervision of clinical educators.
The response so far has been positive, with good feedback from both patients and practitioners. Since opening its doors in May, the clinic has provided more than 90 physiotherapy appointments, with four final year students seeing up to 11 people in an afternoon. Podiatry students also recently started helping people with their often-debilitating foot issues.
“It’s going really well. The interest in this service has been great,” Katia said. “Feedback from students has been very positive… most were apprehensive in the beginning and didn’t know what to expect. But although they’ve experienced a steep learning curve, they are finding it very rewarding.
“One wrote a lovely comment in a card to me that said, ‘thank you for offering us this opportunity… it was a life-changing experience’.”
Katia said that while most referrals come from the Salvation Army and other community service organisations, people can also self-refer. “People can just walk in off the street. Our clients range from people living in hostels to people on very low incomes, who need help,” Katia said.
“As a physio, you receive positive comments from clients, but with this service it often comes with that added layer of gratitude. They present with complex pain interwoven with mental health issues, so it’s important to show compassion and understanding.
“I’m very proud to see this service up and running and changing lives, and the University of South Australia has been wonderfully supportive. One colleague emailed me to say, ‘it’s one thing to have an idea, but it’s another thing to make it happen’.”
The AMP Foundation is currently assessing this year’s crop of amazing Australians doing great things who hope to share in this year’s $1 million worth of grants. The 2017 AMP Tomorrow Makers will be announced on 16 November.
Join us together in song
If you’re in central Sydney on Thursday 10 August, drop by Martin Place to hear a special performance from the Sydney Street Choir and AMP employees, as part of the Sydney Street Choir Corporate Challenge. The free show starts at noon. For a taste of what to expect, check out this video.