First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley
2407 Dana Street at Haste Street
Berkeley, CA 94704-2207
Voicemail: (510) 269-7242
570 University Hall #1190
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-1190
General Clinic operates on Tuesday nights from 6:15PM-9:00PM
The General Clinic is the oldest of the Suitcase Clinic’s three drop-in centers targeting low-income and homeless populations in Berkeley, receiving up to fifty clients per night on average. For over twenty years, the General Clinic has been a safe and successful place for homeless individuals to receive medical or other professional services, to pick up hygiene supplies, to talk to a lawyer, or just to hang out with Berkeley students.
Failure to abide by these guidelines may result in a ban from General Clinic. The Clinic Coordinators determine ban length on a case-by-case basis.
Arrive between 5:30PM – 6:00PM if you intend to utilize services. The Clinic Coordinators and other service coordinators will begin intake for individual services at 6:30PM. All services except for dental are provided on a first-come, first-serviced, drop-in basis. The dental division uses a lottery system (see below for more information).
All services are free and operate on a drop-in basis. Not every service is offered every week. Check our Services page or call our voicemail for service availability. This page was last updated on March 31, 2012.
Services Run in Conjunction with Professionals
UCSF-UCB JMP Medical Students and one Attending Physician are available weekly for medical examinations, diagnoses, prescriptions, physicals, and other services. STD/STI Testing, Mental Health, and lab testing such as blood cultures, urinalysis, etc. are not offered. For example, they can take out stitches, examine possibly broken bones, and provide consultations (and a limited amount of medication) concerning rashes, infections, flus, asthmas, colds, and sprains. They do not have powerful painkillers, cannot do papsmears, cannot do anything about broken bones, and cannot put in stitches. Referrals to other medical clinics are offered through our Community Resources Coordinators (formerly CoCA). Intake and Triage begins at 6:30PM and service is offered 7:00-9:00PM. All medicine, even over the counter medicine, cannot be given out by the Medical Service without the client seeing the doctors. Prescriptions are not kept on file. Medical students take a patient history of the client with the caseworker present and then the medical student presents the case to the physician.
Clients are not seen on a first come, first served basis- they are triaged by a medical student, so they are seen based on both a) the severity of their case in comparison to other clients and b) how much the medical service will actually benefit them. We see about four-six clients a night.
We also offer flu shots (seasonally).
- Intake begins 6:30PM: Please take a seat by the ramp and wait to sign up with Clinic Coordinator and Medical Student.
- Clinic Coordinator and Medical Student determine triage.
- Assignment to volunteer caseworker if chosen for medical service.
During the school year, we have 2 separate optometry referral systems. UC Berkeley VSP Voucher: This covers the cost of both the eye exam and glasses. We pass these out on the first Tuesday of each month to individuals that qualify. The requirements for the VSP voucher are 1. Have a valid SSN. 2. <200% below poverty level. 3. Have not used a VSP voucher within 1 year. 4. No insurance that covers eye exams (i.e. Medi-cal pays for the exam, but not glasses. An individual with Medi-cal cannot use the voucher). *Minor hall optometry students will conduct pre-screenings at General Clinic several times a semester to help prioritize based on severity of eyesight impairment.
For clients with a valid, unexpired prescription, they can get a referral to Sears Optical in Oakland or Richmond to receive a free pair of glasses. In order to receive a referral, a client must present a valid and up-to-date prescription to a Clinic Coordinator. If a client does not have one, but has the ability to obtain one, he or she should return to clinic with the prescription for a referral to Sears in Oakland or Richmond. There are three time slots available for either the upcoming Wednesday or Thursday after Tuesday’s clinic. It is required that clients show their valid prescription to Sears Optical.Clients pick out a pair of frames (from a select group) at their scheduled appointment, and they make an appointment to pick up their finished glasses at another time. Sears Optical CANNOT take frames the client has and put new lenses in there–that is actually more expensive for them. They have to receive glasses with the frames Sears Optical offers to them. Clients can receive glasses from this program once a year–if they receive glasses from this program and lose them in the same year, they must wait until next year. Clients must demonstrate financial need.
On certain Tuesday nights (about twice a month-see calendar), volunteer dentists and dental coordinators at the Berkeley Free Clinic are available to offer general dentistry services to clients.
It is important to note that intake is not done on a first-come-first-serve basis; the first ten clients to sign up for the dental service will be entered into a lottery. One client (unless noted otherwise) from this list of ten will be selected at random for that night’s dental service. Unfortunately we cannot give priority to returning clients who have previously entered the lottery and were not selected. Dental service is an all-night service and generally excludes the possibility of receiving other services on the same day. The number of new clients we can serve each time is limited, depending on the number of pre-existing appointments.
At 7:00PM we take the new clients and any clients who have appointments to the Berkeley Free Clinic, although clients with appointments may elect go directly to the BFC. There, new clients will receive a dental exam, have X-rays taken, and receive appropriate treatment. The Dental Coordinators stay at the BFC to assist until all the clients have been seen.
Once a client receives dental service, he or she is eligible to receive appointments until all the necessary dental work is completed. There are a number of dental procedures that we do not have the resources to offer–for these, we refer clients to places in the Bay Area that do perform those services.
–We offer: oral hygiene instruction, exams, cleanings, fillings, root canals, and extractions (if the dentist determines it is absolutely necessary).
–We do NOT offer: dentures, crowns, implants, partials, or bridges.
Please note that if you are currently receiving regular dental services from another provider, you are not eligible for the Suitcase Clinic Dental lottery. As of January 2012, this includes receiving dental services from The Berkeley Free Clinic. Because we are striving to provide our services to those who have no access to dental care whatsoever, no exceptions will be made.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
On select Tuesday of every month, attorneys from the East Bay Community Law Center volunteer at General Clinic. Clients should come prepared with legal questions and relevant documents, and are accompanied by caseworkers to the law students. The law students record the details of each client’s case and reviews the details with the attorney, who directs the clients to the appropriate legal services available in the Bay Area (example: exactly who to call at EBCLC, or other legal organizations that can help). The law students and supervising attorney do not provide services in a representative capacity, but are helpful in providing resource information and referrals, often articulating the problems of the clients in a way that is most easily comprehended by legal professionals. The Legal Coordinator’s job is to keep in touch with the legal team and ensure that they come out every Tuesday, as well as performing intake and sometimes case working for clients who have “quick” questions. It is extremely helpful if clients bring documentation in regards to their legal concern (i.e. a contract, parking ticket, rent agreement) to clinic to show the law students and attorney.
When the attorney, the Legal Coordinator is able to give legal information (not advice!) for referrals outside of clinic – most often to EBCLC, Bay Area Legal Aid, and Neighborhood Justice Clinic.
Things caseworkers should do if caseworking for legal:
– Write a brief description of the legal question the client had on the intake form
– Let the Legal Coordinator know if the client will need a follow up session, remind them that Legal is held only twice a month.
OMM is a hands-on method of treatment used to improve health and treat a wide variety of medical problems including body pain, headaches, injuries, impaired movement, the common cold and many others. A one-hour treatment session consists of a medical history, structural exam, and a hands-on treatment; it is lead by two osteopathic medical students, under the supervision of a doctor of osteopathic medicine. OMM takes ten clients a night: five clients at 7:00PM and five clients at 8:00PM, spending an hour with each client. Clients are usually paired with two osteopathic students, who take clients’ patient history and then proceed with doing OMM work under the guidance of a physician. Unlike most service provider services at clinic, caseworkers for OMM are not required to stay with clients at OMM through the whole hour. Caseworkers may drop clients off at OMM and observe if they wish to. OMM is typically held at clinic every-other-week. OMM has all the clinic dates available at the beginning of each semester, so please check the calendar.
Acupuncture centers on the concept of Qi, or energy. The flow of Qi in the body is regulated through acupuncture in order to balance the body. Acupuncture is commonly known to increase circulation, decrease inflammation, and augment the immune and nervous systems. It is good in helping to relieve many different ailments such as headaches, body aches, muscle-related injuries, toothaches, arthritic pains, post-surgery pain, bowel and digestive issues, respiratory problems, smoking cessation, and much more.
Touro Pharmacy Students (as well as a licensed Pharmacist) provide blood pressure readings, blood glucose tests, and drug optimization counseling (they can talk to clients about what works best them if they are on multiple prescription drugs). They can also answer any questions in regards to medications clients have, or just general health questions. The Touro Pharmacy station also has a limited amount of over-the-counter medication available for clients, but clients will have to present a need for the medication (by talking to the pharmacists about symptoms they are having). Some over-the counter medication they have includes: hydrocortisone, antibiotic ointment, allergy products (benadryl and claritin), bisacodyl (laxative), lomotil (anti-diarrheal), antifungal cream, lice treatment (limited quantity), antacids, Band-Aids, chapstick, and select cough/cold products.
Services Run by Undergraduates
Foot Care has volunteer students providing gentle podiatric care, and handing out nail clippers, lotion, anti-fungal spray, and foot powder to our clients, who often walk for hours and have limited access to showers. Footwashing is a service that is offered at clinic every week and occurs on a first-come first-serve basis. However, clients may wash their own feet if desired. Footwashing Coordinators assign a volunteer to a client. A hot water bath with soap is prepared for each client. Two towels are used: a small towel is used for washing the client’s feet, and a big towel is used to dry their feet after. The used hot water is dumped in the toilet, dried with a towel, sprayed with barbicide, and air-dried. It is only AFTER footwashing that clients are able to receive socks. There are NO EXCEPTIONS to this current sock policy. Footwashing Coordinators are responsible for the washing and drying of used towels and socks at the end of each night and preparing them for the next footwashing session.
- Clients must sign up with the Clinic Runner during intake at 6:30PM.
- Service begins at 7:00PM in the downstairs room, and closes at 8:30PM.
The haircutting service has student volunteers providing haircuts and beard trimmings for clients who often do not have access to a set of clippers or scissors. Haircutting is a service that we offer at clinic every week and occurs on a first-come first-serve basis. The Haircutting Coordinators normally perform the haircuts but if they are not available, other volunteers substitute for them. However, clients may cut their own hair or shave their own beards if desired. A plastic apron is used to cover the client, and then depending on the type of haircut they prefer, either electric clippers or scissors are used. After the use of any clipper, clipper attachment, scissors, or combs, the equipment is cleaned using barbicide. The coordinators are responsible for proper maintenance and cleaning of all of the haircutting materials used for all clients. * New service: hairwashing
- Clients must sign up with the Clinic Runner during intake at 6:30PM.
- Service begins at 7:00PM in the downstairs room, and closes at 8:30PM.
Health Education manages donations to the clinic and the distribution of hygiene supplies and clothing to clients. The maximum for any one particular item is two (or two quantities, such as with flossers or cough drops for which they receive a half dozen or so). Quantities of pain medications are seven pills, and clients may only choose one type of pain medication per week. Screening questions are asked before distribution of any medication.
Items we distribute weekly include: condoms, Band-Aids, toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, flossers, soap, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, cotton swabs, razors, safety pins, tampons/pads, combs/brushes, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, thread and needle, and multivitamins.
Health Ed manages the needle exchange program at General Clinic–we can dispose of used needles and provide clients with clean needles and other supplies. More health education materials are available at the table including smoking-cessation information, safe-sex pamphlets, free meal distribution locations in Alameda County charts, depression information, etc. Health Education also plans on beginning a new Skin Care/Protection program starting in the summer of 2012.
Every week the H & E Coordinators receive clients with a wide variety of housing and employment related issues. They work on the case at hand through an informal interview process, determining the client’s needs and history. H & E Coordinators then provide referrals to other agencies, assistance with housing searches (through Eden I + R list and Craigslist), job searches (through a variety of online sources), career counseling, employment seeking advice (resume building, interview coaching, and cover letter writing), Section 8 assistance, public benefit information, and step-by-step action plans. Some clients come repeatedly to work on issues though the majority seeks assistance sporadically. They can also assist with resumes. Housing & Employment Coordinators are here every week in the gym. They do not have jobs or houses to give out–they help clients find possible opportunities.
The Community Resources Coordinators help to address clients’ needs that cannot be met on-site at clinic by referring them to outside services and resources. CR Coordinators commonly refer clients to services such as free or low-cost medical, dental, legal, and optometry services. Also, they help clients locate places where they can get free meals, showers, laundry, immunizations, and other services that they cannot receive at clinic.
CR Coordinators conduct intake at 6:30PM and ask clients what sort of referrals they need. For the duration of clinic, they will either directly work with clients at the Community Resources table in the gym or run written/printed referrals (information about specific services/organizations) up to clients in a particular service. CR Coordinators use both their own list of resources and the internet to help clients find out-of-clinic services that they need.
The Community Resources table is at the back of the gym, next to the Housing and Employment table.
The S.H.A.R.E. coordinators act as liaisons between the Berkeley Community, Suitcase Clinic, and our clients. They facilitate a discussion group at General Clinic, where members of the community and clients are able to come together to discuss various topics (everything from pertinent community issues such as the General Assistance cuts to current events). An important aspect of these discussion groups is to gather different perspectives from students and clients to empower the homeless community to actively create change. They also represent Suitcase Clinic at community meetings such as the City of Berkeley Homeless Commission Board meetings and COT (Community Organizing Team–led by Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency) meetings. The S.H.A.R.E. Coordinators take what they learn from our clients and community members to continue improving our services at clinic and to continue to be better advocates of our clients.
S.H.A.R.E. is every Tuesday night at 7:30PM on the ground floor, at the bottom of the ramp.
The S.H.A.R.E. Coordinators take responsibility for coordinating the laundry service. Currently, the Laundry service runs every other week at the General Clinic. It is limited to eight clients per week. Clients meet the SH.A.R.E Coordinators at Bing Wong’s Wash Center on Telegraph and Parker at 6:30PM until 7PM. Coins and detergent will be provided to the first eight clients seen.
Four computers with internet access and a printer are available for clients to use. Clients are limited to 15 minutes maximum per night. Computer use ends at around 8:55PM, when clients are given a five minute warning then.
On another cart, there is a TV with an antenna/digital converter, VCR, and DVD player. There is a select number of DVDs clients can check out–they just need to ask a Clinic Coordinator or Clinic Runner and he/she will fetch the client the desired movie in the file cabinet. Clients are encouraged to bring their own movies too!