Founded in 1999, the mission of Health Care Without Walls is “to improve the lives of women who are homeless or marginally housed through quality health care, education and advocacy.” Early in her medical career, Dr. Roseanna Means found herself walking past homeless people on her way to work and became bothered that there were people outside a major medical institution that were not receiving the care they needed.

Dr. Means took action. She worked with Boston’s Health Care for the Homeless for seven years. During that time, she observed that homeless women using traditional healthcare access venues, even when staffed by doctors trained in caring for the homeless, can feel overwhelmed when impaired by exhaustion, mental illness and fear. She wanted to dedicate herself to women’s health issues as well as to address the dire consequences of the inefficiencies in the current healthcare system for vulnerable women and children.

Since Health Care Without Walls (formerly Women of Means) was founded, the organization has remained true to its mission of providing safe and compassionate care for women who struggle with health and housing. We have seen staggering growth in the number of women in need of help – unaccompanied adults, elderly women, women with children or about to have a child – and there are still many more who remain uncounted and at risk. Over time, our programs have adapted to the needs of our clients, recognizing the broad set of determinants that impact health. What began with a handful of volunteer physicians has grown to provide our clients with a team of dedicated nurses and community health workers who focus on each person’s individual needs, one client at a time. Our place of work has expanded to see clients where they need, where they feel safe. With the pandemic, we have made sure our clients could connect with us, both at our own clinic at 41 West Street or using telehealth when visits are not safe.

As we turn the page to new leadership, we are excited by what this new chapter will bring for the clients we serve, and for continuing the HCWW mission that was established by Dr. Means over 20 years ago.