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Provider Profile | Dr. Andrea Littleton

Dr. Andrea Littleton has been working with Care For the Homeless for the past 16-years. In that time, she’s dedicated herself to street outreach, substance abuse treatment, social medicine, and much more.

By Connor T Moriarty

The streets outside the Care For the Homeless (CFH) Health Center (located at the Living Room/Safe Haven Shelter) rattle with a rhythm that should be familiar to most New Yorkers.

The Living Room

Semi-trucks blow by, footsteps patter on the sidewalk, and the nearest park teems with laughing children. Across the street, a Dominican monastery stands as tall and proud as the day it was built in 1891, adding a touch of history to the area.

Conversely, the rhythm inside the halls of the shelter and health center are anything but familiar. Located in the Bronx, the Living Room/Safe Haven a is a 24-hour, open access drop-in site, meaning anyone experiencing street homelessness is welcome to come in and spend time off the streets.

CFH site partner BronxWorks offers hot meals, showers, laundry, and housing services to compliment the medical services provided by CFH.

Description of the Living Room

Despite the similarities it shares with other CFH sites, the Living Room holds many qualities that sets it apart from the rest.

Dr. Andrea Littleton

Long time CFH provider and BronxWorks Medical Director, Dr. Andrea Littleton, commented, โ€œIn a lot of ways, itโ€™s a shelter of last resort. For some who experience homelessness, one of the reasons they stay homeless is because of their mental health and/or their substance abuse issues. A lot of shelters have regulations that are difficult for people experiencing these conditions to conform to. So, when they canโ€™t adapt to the regular shelter system, they come to the Living Room.โ€

Care For the Homeless Physician Dr. Andrea Littleton with a Patient
Dr. Litteton with one of her patients.

Dr. Andrea Littleton has been associated with Care For the Homeless for the past 16 years. She originally became affiliated through Montefiore, where she completed her family residency program in social medicine.ย โ€œEventually I became the Medical Director for the CFH team serving Bronx sites,โ€ Dr. Littleton recalled. โ€œI spent time at each site, trained residents, and supervised their work. Thatโ€™s how I metย Dr. Nickisha Berlus, who just started at CFH last year.โ€

โ€œI loved the work. Still love the work.โ€

In 2010, CFHโ€™s contractual arrangement with Montefiore ended, but Dr. Littleton knew she wanted to stay on at CFH in some capacity. โ€œWhen they asked me what I had in mind I said: I want to be at the Living Room. I want to be at a drop-in shelter. And I want to do street outreach. So, thatโ€™s what Iโ€™ve been doing since 2010.โ€

The Work

Throughout the nearly 10 years since, Dr. Andrea Littleton has not only fulfilled that goal, but made efforts to expand the reach of her programs. In conjunction with BronxWorks staff, Dr. Littleton and her colleague Luis Fernandez, CASAC-2 (Certified Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor) reach out to individuals experiencing street homelessness, engage with them, give them necessary medications, and ensure that they arenโ€™t having any medical problems.

โ€œThe street outreach that we do is really exciting,โ€ Dr. Littleton explained. โ€œBronxWorks is the street outreach team for the Bronx, so they see people who are still living actively on the street. I go out with them every other week and target people thatย theyย believe have medical needs and would benefit from seeing a doctor.โ€

Street Outreach

Street outreach also looks to understand an individualโ€™s condition beyond their medical needs. This is known as social medicine, something Dr. Littleton is a passionate champion of. โ€œIt addresses the whole person,โ€ she commented, โ€œand how their culture, socioeconomic background, and political environment affects their health care and their ability to access it.โ€

โ€œAs a person of color myself,โ€ Dr. Littleton continued. โ€œIโ€™ve always understood and felt how people (based on certain parts of their history) may be treated differently in our country. They might not have the same opportunities as others and thatโ€™s always bothered me. Something like health should be a right and the fact that it isnโ€™t in a country like ours, one of the wealthiest in the world, is especially frustrating.โ€

A quote from Dr. Littleton

โ€œTo be able to put a little dent in that inequality and give people access to good care, is something Iโ€™ve always wanted to use my education and skills for.โ€

Through the street outreach team at the Living Room, Dr. Littleton and her CFH colleagues have done just that.

โ€œWe found that a lot of times, our clients that had left the shelter system and ended up back on the street, did so because of substance abuse and/or mental health issues,โ€ Dr. Littleton commented. โ€œIf we engage with them and get them on treatment, then a lot of the time theyโ€™re willing to come back in, get a room, and start back on that path towards housing again.โ€

Suboxone Treatment

โ€œWeโ€™ve also been providing Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) here for a couple of years and itโ€™s been very successful,โ€ Dr. Littleton continued. โ€œLuis Fernandez, CASAC-2 and I now have a panel of over 50 people who are being treated with Suboxone. Weโ€™re so lucky that thereโ€™s good treatment now for people who use heroin and opioids.โ€

โ€œWith suboxone, patients feel like themselves,โ€ said Dr. Littleton. โ€œThey donโ€™t feel high or low, and theyโ€™re free to do what they need to get back on their feet. They can get their housing and their lives back.โ€

Victor S., a patient of Dr. Littletonโ€™s, testified, โ€œI get a lot more done now and Iโ€™m finally working towards things that I wanted to get done during my 25-years of addiction. Iโ€™m closer to my family. Iโ€™m closer to my lady. The program changed a lot for me.โ€

Goals for the Future

Moving forward, Dr. Littleton hopes to expand the current program as well as encourage current students to pursue social medicine as part of their studies.

โ€œI think itโ€™s really important for people in all different stages of medicine to be exposed to populations of people that could really benefit from their services,โ€ she continued. โ€œItโ€™s a lot of work to address every aspect of a person, but itโ€™s rewarding.โ€

Dr. Littletonโ€™s devotion to social medicine is indicative of what makes CFHโ€™s health care model so innovative. Health care and homelessness are always intertwined, each having a significant affect on the outcome of the other. Adherence to this philosophy communicates to those experiencing homelessness, that providers who are actively interested in treatingย boththeir medical and homeless conditions.

Please help us ensure we can retain and recruit inspiring medical professionals like Dr. Littleton and Luis Fernandez.ย Your giftย of any amountย canย help change the lives of New Yorkers experiencing homelessness, thank you.

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