Homeless veterans receive free dental, eye care from Healing California program

The all-volunteer program was founded by the TV producer who created the hit series "Malcolm in the Middle."
PASADENA, Calif. (KABC) -- There are about 40,000 homeless veterans in America, 10,000 of which live in California.

Many of the state's veterans in need are receiving help from a program founded by television producer Linwood Boomer, best known for creating the hit series "Malcolm in the Middle."

Healing California provides expert dental work and eye care to an overlooked segment of the population.

Who specifically is the program for?

"Healing California is primarily for homeless veterans but we don't deny anyone service," Boomer told ABC7. "They do cleanings and fillings and extractions. And they do complete eye exams -- which almost never get done -- and they make custom prescription eyeglasses on-site."

The program's director, Tom Burley, added: "Since 2018, we've delivered services to over 4,600 people, 75% of which have been veterans or family members."

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And it's free, thanks to people, corporations and foundations funding the work. Healing California's hundreds of dentists, hygienists and optometrists are all volunteers.

But due to the coronavirus pandemic, they can no longer arrive at events for homeless veterans and simply set up shop. So, on to Plan B: The program is trying to raise $250,000 for a used dental van.

Instead of 10 dentists seeing patients over the course of a single day, "we'll park there for a week with two dentists and see 150 patients in a way that's much more controlled, and much safer, and much less prone to spreading any infections," Boomer said.

Burley described the vehicle as "a dentist's office on wheels. The only difference is we don't send you a bill afterwards."

One way Healing California plans to raise money for the van is a "Malcolm in the Middle" 20th anniversary Zoom reunion on Aug. 8.

Boomer knows the program is changing lives. He recalled what one homeless veteran who received help from the program wanted the volunteers to know: "He looked at me and he said, 'Yeah, tell them thank for your service.' And I was like, 'Wow!'"

To learn more about Healing California, visit the organization's website at healingca.org.
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