Thirty years ago a small temporary hut moved into Oxford city centre.
Its sole reason for being there was to help the homeless population of the city who were falling through the cracks in the healthcare system at the time and weren’t able to access care.
Today, the Luther Street Medical Centre is a far cry from the ramshackle hut it once was, with treatment rooms for physical and mental health assessments, podiatry care, dental services and more.
Eve Gibb, who has been a nurse at Luther Street since those first days in the temporary hut, explained how the service started.
“Dave Collett and Dr Hilary Allinson are the main features of how Luther Street came about,” she said.
“She (Dr Allinson) saw that homeless people were falling through the net as they had no address and couldn’t register at a normal GP so she started caring for people under the umbrella of her practice in Abingdon.”
Over time it was recognised that the small hut they operated out of was not enough, so efforts commenced to raise money for a permanent building on the site.
Initiatives included a buy-a-brick scheme and fundraising by staff that saw Eve and her colleagues at the time walking 27 miles across the Ridgeway to raise more than £9,000 toward building costs.
“My hips have never been the same,” joked Eve.
But all joking aside their achievements were significant and are rightly commemorated with a plaque on the centre’s first floor that includes the names of all those who donated to the building fund.
Eve’s passion for working with the homeless is clear when you speak to her, as she explained one of the biggest frustrations she feels from members of the public.
“They’re all tarred with the same brush, and people think ‘oh they’re no good, they’re all the same.’
“Actually they’re not. They’re all individuals, they’ve all got something to offer and there are quite a few people that we’ve got from the street, back into normality with jobs, married and kids now so there is always hope.”
And this passion is shared by the practice manager Stephen Moore who has worked at Luther Street for the past six years, who recognises the importance of the work done at the centre.
“Our role is pivotal. We’ve had ex-patients come back in to speak to us and talk to the team and I remember one person who told us that he avoided prison because of the care we provided him,” he said.
“Working with homeless people is incredibly humbling and extremely rewarding. We have a great team here at Luther Street and everyone is committed giving the best possible care to our patients.”
However, Eve admitted that sometimes it was a case of having to take things in your stride when you worked in a place where no two days are the same.
“There’s no such thing as an average day here, we will deal with whatever walk in through the door,” she added.
“I’ve always said that we are a bit like a mother ship. We are a mother to all and that’s how they treat us sometimes.
“And when it comes time for them to move on and we have housing for them and everything is in place, its cutting those apron strings. Sometimes it can be very hard, not only for us but for the patient as well.”
So after 30 years in the job, how did Eve feel about working at Luther Street? Had she had enough?
In short, no.
“I always said that if the day ever comes when I get out of bed and say I really don’t want to come to work tomorrow then I will move on and quit,” said Eve.
“But I’ve never had one of those days. I still enjoy coming into work, I still enjoy what I do and I love working with homeless people.”