Free, student-run homeless clinic expanding to offer dental care

Education , Community , Health Care
Bridges Collaborative Care Clinic
Bridges Collaborative Care Clinic
young woman tends to a participant in the bridges clinic
OHSU School of Nursing student and Alexandria Yeo tends to a Bridges Collaborative Care Clinic participant at Transitions Projects’ medical clinic in September 2017. (OHSU/Tracy Brawley)

The Bridges Collaborative Care Clinic is expanding its services just a year after medical, nursing, pharmacy, dental, public health and other healthcare students from OHSU, Portland State University and Oregon State University began offering transitional medical care and social services to Portland residents experiencing homelessness.

Starting Oct. 27, the free, student-run, 501(c)3 nonprofit clinic will also offer tooth fillings and extractions at its new dental clinic. And Bridges is hosting its first fundraising gala Nov. 3 to help both its clinics maintain -- and hopefully expand -- their operations.

Click here for tickets and donations for the Bridges Collaborative Care Clinic Inaugural Fundraiser.

“Oftentimes, those who are homeless are struggling to figure out where to sleep or how to eat each day, which can make navigating the health care system to find quality care an exceptional challenge,” said Bridges founding board chair Zoe Teton, a neurological surgery research fellow and a fourth-year medical student in the OHSU School of Medicine.

“Bridges aims to reduce these barriers by delivering care directly in Transition Projects locations. We hope to bridge the gap between traditional health systems and people who are homeless,” Teton continued. “Our student volunteers, overseen by licensed professionals, offer compassionate care in the interim while working to connect our clients with our wonderful community partners for long-term health care within a more traditional medical setting.”

Student volunteers identified dental services as a top need for Portland’s homeless community early on, while conducting a needs assessment prior to opening. But the high cost of starting a new dental clinic prevented Bridges from opening one at the same time its medical clinic opened in October 2017.

As a result, Bridges’ first year of operation focused on basic medical care, including helping clients manage sore or swollen joints, foot and wound care, respiratory infections, high blood pressure, diabetes and more.


man sitting at a desk, smiling at person not seen in image
Tom Foley consults with a client at the Bridges Collaborative Care Clinic in September 2017. The clinic will soon be expanding services to include dental work. (OHSU/Tracy Brawley)

The medical clinic is located in the lobby of The Clark Center Annex in inner Southeast Portland, just across from The Clark Center - a transitional housing shelter for clients of Bridges partner Transition Projects, which helps people transition out of homelessness. The medical clinic was initially only open to Clark Center residents, but has since expanded to clients at two Transition Projects shelters for women and couples. It currently serves clients two Saturdays per month, with plans to be open more frequently by early 2019, if finances permit.

The new dental clinic is located at Bud Clark Commons in inner Northwest Portland, where Transition Projects operates a day center open to anyone living on the streets. In addition to offering fillings and extractions, the dental clinic will help patients maintain good oral hygiene by providing toothbrushes, paste and other products. It features standard equipment, such as reclining dental chairs, water and suction tips, and an X-ray machine. It will initially be open once a month.

“Dental care is especially important for people who are homeless,” said Bridges dental team lead Joseph Jamus, a fourth-year dental student in the OHSU School of Dentistry. “Missing or grossly decayed teeth hinders a person’s ability to find a job, have confidence in one’s self, and even eat. Providing dental care can have a huge impact on helping people transition out of homelessness.”

Bridges received its federal 501(c)3 nonprofit status in summer 2018, and student leaders now are organizing their first-ever fundraising gala to support the clinic’s ongoing efforts on Saturday, Nov. 3. At $125 for a single ticket, the event includes live music, a catered dinner, hosted beer from Basecamp Brewing and local wine for purchase. The evening will also feature Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran and former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber as special guest speakers. Also included is a silent auction and a raffle for a two-year lease on a brand-new Toyota Rav4 from Beaverton Toyota.

First Year in Review: Bridges Collaborative Care Clinic

(Data are for Oct. 17, 2017 to Sept. 15, 2018)

Bridges Collaborative Care Clinic Inaugural Fundraiser

Click here for tickets and donations for the Bridges Collaborative Care Clinic Inaugural Fundraiser.


Franny White
Senior Media Relations Specialist