The Care of Connecting
The Good Health Shuttle launched in 1994 when the City of New York created the Department of Homeless Services. The Floating Hospital linked with that city agency to connect the tens of thousands of New Yorkers experiencing homelessness with a way to access the clinic’s services. In a city with such vast public transportation options, door-to-door shuttle service may sound like a pretty nice perk, but the reality of getting from here to there for these families is often far from simple or easy.
“The families become homeless because of evictions, or domestic violence, or they’re undocumented. They have to report themselves to the Department of Homeless Services, which assigns them to a shelter in one of the five boroughs, no matter where you lived before,” explains Romero. “A typical family we serve may be a young female with two or three children, no education, and a lot of challenges trying to find a job to pay market rent. It’s just impossible.”
“The city assigns a shelter wherever it’s available and this mom from Brooklyn, who maybe winds up in Staten Island, is completely lost. She has to take her children for physicals, for school or immunization, or maybe she needs to see a doctor at the local hospital. Now you have this mom with no idea where she is, pushing a stroller, trying to find a city hospital.”
For women and their children who are the victims of domestic violence and living in secure safe houses, there’s an extra level of care from Romero and the drivers transporting them. “These are confidential places and it is paramount to keep that aspect of security and privacy,” he says. “The only person who knows where they are is me and the directors of those facilities. Not even drivers know where they go.” Romero’s drivers arrange pick-up points close to the facilities and return patients them back to that point. “They trust us. We even have female drivers for those who not comfortable with a male driver.”