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In My Father's Kitchen brings new medical outreach van to Syracuse

Ellen Abbott
Dr. David Lehmann of Upstate Medical University delivers remarks at the introduction of homeless outreach group In My Father's Kitchen's, new medical outreach van.

Homeless outreach advocates in Syracuse are hitting the streets with a new medical outreach van. It comes as numbers of homeless clients hit record highs.

Joe Davis used to hold a sign, asking for money, on the corner of Erie Boulevard and McBride Street. He made the jump off the streets, holding down a job and living in an apartment, with help of In My Father’s Kitchen.

"That’s what we want, somebody to help us," Davis said. "Because a lot of people find you are homeless or on drugs or suffer from depression, they don’t want to help you."

In My Father’s Kitchen has been offering food and services to individuals living under bridges, in abandoned buildings, and hidden encampments in Syracuse for more than a decade now. Founder and Executive Director John Tumino has never been as busy as he is now.

“We're carrying a caseload of 75 individuals now — unprecedented for us In My Father’s Kitchen," Tumino said. "It means a lot more engagement. A lot is drug induced situations and undiagnosed mental health."

Many of those individuals need some kind of medical attention. That’s where Doctor David Lehmann, a professor at Upstate University Hospital, comes in. He has spent the last five years tending to everything from high blood pressure to abscesses. He said the new van, purchased with help from the City of Syracuse, makes his job easier.

"I’ll be able to see what the heck I’m doing better," Lehmann said. "If you can picture your own office setting when you see the doctor, they have a light they can pull down and focus on the problem. I see a lot of skin lesions and I can get them on a bed rather than sitting on the corner of a van."

Tumino said more help for the house calls for the homeless program can only help his organization.

"When the doc' starts to invest in them and starts to take care of their boo-boos, as I call them, they are more open to listening to other things," Tumnio said. "It turns into a conversation about mental health, or substance abuse or getting into housing so the medicine opens up the door to other conversations."

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.