Boston doctor's kindness helps save homeless

(CBS News) BOSTON - We've heard a lot in the past week about the doctors, nurses and first-responders who worked so hard to save lives at the Boston Marathon.

CBS News met one doctor who is saving lives - on the streets of Boston, every night of the year.

It's just after 8 pm, and Roseanna Means is working the night shift.

"I have some socks, you need some socks?" she says to a woman sitting on a park bench.

"Oh sure, that'd be great," the woman responds.

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She's a doctor. But Means is not getting paid for these rounds -- she's searching for homeless women on the streets of Boston.

It all started 20 years ago when the Harvard-trained doctor at Brigham and Women's Hospital began volunteering at health clinics for the homeless.

"When I see these women, I see this could be me, it could be you, It could it could be any one of us, because there's nobody that goes through life without having any problems," Means said. "My own personal life, I've been through cancer, I lost a child, I've been through divorce, I have steel knees -- I've been through lots of personal things in my life."

Dr. Roseanne Means approaches a homeless woman in Boston.
Dr. Roseanna Means approaches a homeless woman in Boston.
CBS News

In 1998 Means founded the non-profit "Women of Means." Her team of 16 volunteer doctors provides free medical care to women at homeless shelters around the city. They average ten thousand visits a year.

"It's not a system, it's a giving of human kindness to people who just need to be acknowledged and validated and appreciated," she said.

Donna O'Connell
Donna O'Connell
CBS News
Donna O'Connell says if she hadn't met Means, she would probably "be dead."

O'Connell was a homeless drug addict when she first met Means 10 years ago.

"We sat down and started talking, and she gave me courage and hope and she gave me antibiotics and evaluated me and then I opened up and started talking about my life and she just helped me."

Now O'Connell is sober, off the streets and working part-time.

"She saved me, so now when I go to my mom's grave I say, 'You know mom, I love you and thank you for giving me another mom. You'll always be my mom, but thank you for giving me her."

So Means' mission continues, searching for ways to help women help themselves.

  • Elaine Quijano

    Elaine Quijano was named a CBS News correspondent in January 2010. Quijano reports for "CBS This Morning" and the "CBS Evening News," and contributes across all CBS News platforms. She is based in New York.

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