Meet Mark. Mark has been intermittently homeless for 30-odd years and he experiences mental health issues which stem from his periods of homelessness. Walking Tall’s Andrew Barlow has been attending to Mark since 2007 and over that period, through good results and the eradication of pain in his feet, they have overcome musculoskeletal and dermatological issues.
“I met Mark at an event for homeless people experiencing homelessness, where I treated him and got good results,” Andrew explains.
Through his treatment period, Mark regained the ability to exercise and walk. These developments saw a huge positive impact on his psychological wellbeing and a mutually-respectful relationship between Andrew and Mark continued to unfold; based on the shared belief that a person’s health is their priority.
“He has become a friend to me, given our shared vision to make a difference by using donations to distribute footwear to those who need it most,” says Andrew.
The impact of this support
Mark now volunteers for different organisations when he can. He takes time out of his day to organise donations in order for Walking Tall to distribute the donated shoes more effectively. This involves organising the footwear into groups, then sorting the footwear into categories such as sizes, gender, purpose, and level of support.
“It’s important that the shoes are distributed according to their purpose and function,” says Andrew. “Mark’s time spent categorising the shoes provides a filter to ensure the shoes are safe and adequate for their new owner.
“Without Mark, it is likely the shoes will be less accessible to those who need them.”
How does this case study apply to you as a podiatrist? Here are three lessons learned we get from it at Walking Tall:
1. You never know the impact you have on those you help: While Mark’s situation is specific, in that he was experiencing homelessness; the impact we had not only improved his health issues, but it inspired him to want to help others. As podiatrists, by showing kindness in our approach we can help to support our patient’s mental health as well as their physical heal.
2. The power of many makes a big difference: At Walking Tall we can only do so much without the support of people like Mark and many others. We are greater than the sum of our parts and as podiatrists, we are embedded in our local communities. This can be harnessed in a multitude of ways to make a difference to the healthcare issues or causes you care about.
3. Name your cause: While it’s not essential to have a cause in mind, it can be empowering to focus on an issue in your role as a podiatrist that you really care about, which you want to somehow improve or even change for the better. For us, it is supporting people who experience foot health challenges as a result of being disadvantaged – often through homelessness. What causes can you champion through your role as a podiatrist? Name them and build your own circle of support that leads to positive action.