Meet John Savidge of First Presbyterian of San Diego’s Street Corner Care
I had the pleasure of hopping on a Zoom call with John Savidge, the creator and founder of Street Corner Care, an initiative he began through the First Presbyterian Church in San Diego focused on helping unhoused people access healthcare. Within minutes of speaking with John, his passion for this initiative and helping unhoused people have access to medical needs was clear.
After graduating from college, John entered the broadcasting industry, followed by sales which led him to move to Colorado for five years. He then returned to San Diego where he grew up and still resides today.
One Sunday in 2016, John and his wife volunteered at the First Presbyterian Church of San Diego. They helped to distribute a community meal that feeds the unsheltered and seniors in the surrounding area. After this experience, John recalls that he and his wife “drove home and didn’t say a word to each other. We were just so blown away by the entire afternoon.” John kept returning to the church’s community meal every Sunday. After two months, people from the church asked him to apply for a full-time director job within the church. John has been working there for seven years now.
Helping Unhoused People Access Healthcare
John’s idea of introducing street medicine to unhoused people in San Diego originally came from his daughter Lane, who works professionally in this sector. Inspired by his daughter and catalyzed by the Hepatitis A breakout in 2017 (which primarily affected the unhoused population), John created Street Corner Care, which is an initiative that acts as a bridge from unhoused people to the healthcare care system. John explained that many people experiencing homelessness do not trust health institutions. As a result, they opt not to go even when necessary. John further noted that although unsheltered people are reluctant to use the healthcare system, they are one of the most vulnerable populations. He stated that half of the people on the street in San Diego have untreated health issues and 70% have some sort of drug-related issues.
Street Corner Care is made up of student and medical professional volunteers from colleges and institutions in the surrounding San Diego area. The volunteers’ primary goal is to advocate for the patient and familiarize them with the healthcare system, acting as a bridge between the two. The volunteers attend to any immediate medical needs people have and if they are unable to help, they bring them to an ER or hospital with the ultimate goal of reducing barriers unsheltered people face in regard to the healthcare system.
Helping Gets Personal
John shared a personal anecdote about someone near and dear to his heart whom he was able to meet through his time volunteering at Street Corner Care. John met Donny, an undiagnosed schizophrenic unhoused man on his first day at the church and quickly befriended him. Donny loved to sing, and on Sundays, he went to all of the churches in the surrounding area and would stand up and play air guitar during the hymns–everyone knew who Donny was.
During the Hepatitis A breakout, Donny came down with the infection. John took him to the hospital where he helped talk Donny through receiving medical help despite his fears. Donny ended up staying in the hospital for three months recovering from Hepatitis A. As he was returning to health and nearing release, they determined he had stage 4 lymphoma cancer. Donny had no family, so John took it upon himself to look out for him; John and the doctors broke the news to Donny about his progressive cancer. John promised Donny that he would not be alone and that he would stay with him the whole way.
Although only given one month to live, Donny miraculously lived for 17 more months. Donny lived close to John’s house and the two became very close as John would visit him nearly every day. When he finally passed 17 months later, John was not present, but knew it was peaceful. Donny is an excellent example of the impact Street Corner Care has on both its volunteers and patients, forging strong and familial relationships.
How PlanHero Has Helped
John uses PlanHero to set up volunteer times and dates for the students and medical providers. John said that he used to use another signup platform, but he did not enjoy it and was upset because he was charged another time even after turning off auto-renewal.
When John decided to expand Street Corner Care, he was looking for new volunteer software and he found PlanHero and three other sign-up software platforms through a Google search. John chose to use PlanHero as the other companies were charging higher rates.
John subscribed to PlanHero right around the time we switched to our 2.0 version. He liked that there was no advertising on it and it was clean, easy, and simple to use. “PlanHero is easy for them [student volunteers] to use, it’s built for the iPhone.. And everyone seems to like the program.” John went on to say, “What PlanHero has done is make it easy for me to use. I can get on there and create new volunteer opportunities.”
Since our Zoom call and the publication of this piece, John has reached out and informed us that he has taken a leave from Street Corner Care due to personal reasons. John said he loved every day that he walked into the building and had the opportunity to care for and assist the unhoused people of his community.