By Erin Dej
I met Joanna on a balmy afternoon in July in the entry way of Somerset West Community Health Centre (SWCHC). Geared up with bottles of water, toiletries and pillows to give out we set off to visit four of Ottawa’s rooming houses. A rooming house by definition consists of individual rooms with five rooms for every one shared bathroom and sometimes a shared kitchen.
Joanna has been a nurse practitioner with SWCHC for over ten years. Previous to this she worked in the shelter system, but recognized the greater health needs of rooming house tenants. Along with the Rooming House Outreach program, she provides medical care for those who use the walk-in clinic, seeing people as their primary provider if they find it difficult to keep appointments. Her passion for her work comes from her patients who are among those with the poorest health conditions in Ottawa. Joanna says that some of the people she meets in the rooming houses haven’t seen health care in many years so she does her best to “patch people up” and begin to build positive and trusting relationships to address longer-term health issues.