Helping homeless women and children
We provide free healthcare to those who need healthcare the most, yet have the least access.
Shelter Health Services is a free health clinic providing healthcare and health information to uninsured, medically indigent, homeless women and children living in poverty through its walk-in clinic located within the Salvation Army Center of Hope, Mecklenburg County's largest women's shelter. All shelter residents may access our clinic simply by showing their shelter ID. Lacking money and Medicaid, for most the free clinic is their only source of healthcare.
Our mission is to remove health issues as barriers to self-sufficiency for homeless women, and as impediments to development for homeless children, by providing free healthcare and health information that is easily accessible. Attaining self-sufficiency is the most effective way out of homelessness. Being healthy enough to find and keep a job, affordable housing and becoming a part of the community is what virtually every woman in the shelter is trying to achieve. But poor health can be an obstacle to achieving self-sufficiency and can also cause or will prolong homelessness.
We address and remove barriers to receiving healthcare including ease of access (located within the shelter, where our clients live), ease of use (open Monday - Friday, 9:30 to 6:00. Walk-in clinic so appointments are not needed), affordability (all clinic services are provided free, including prescriptions) and continuity of care (unlimited number of visits offers clients a medical home and primary care).
County Point-In-Time Homeless Study
The 2016 Mecklenburg County Point-In-Time study homelessness study results and conclusions will be released in late April. In 2015, the news headline read "Meck. Homelessness Numbers Fall Again". The overall decline was only 1%, hardly a "Fall". Not reported was that homeless women without children living in shelters increased 37%. Homeless women with children (families) living in shelters increased 15%. This is the population we serve. Uninsured, medically indigent, homeless women and children living in poverty. When the 2016 results are reported, we'll dig into the overall report and data to determine the impact on the population we serve and will report these findings here.
New Clinic Services/Programs
Several new services/programs have been launched, or are in development. Pre-Diabetes screening identifies harbingers of diabetes onset (HgA1C between 5.7% and 6.4%). If pre-diabetic, we intervene with tools that facilitate weight loss to avert its onset. Exercise is key. Pedometers are provided to track daily walking distance, with the purpose of increasing the distance daily. Bi-weekly Zumba session offer more energetic exercise. On nice weather days, clinic ad hoc "Walk With A Nurse" exercise sessions are developed for a half hour during the lunch hour. Reducing calories and fats intake is also key. Sports water bottles and no-calorie flavoring are provided to replace sweet tea and sodas. Fruit and health bars are provided to replace chips and cookies as snacks. Smart Ones and Lean Cuisine entrees are provided to replace cafeteria meals. We don't expect anybody to pass up Fried Chicken and hand-made Mac' & Cheese. But substituting a more nutritious entree periodically can have an impact. Results after one year show that the program is effective in averting or delaying diabetes onset by either reducing body weight and HgA1C, or not gaining weight or having higher HgA1C than when they started the program.
In response to an increase of 34% of infants, toddlers and pre-school children (ages 0 to 5 years) receiving care at the clinic, our Pediatric Wellness Program was developed. The comprehensive program starts with pediatric Well Child exams. Screens and tests are done to detect signs or hypertension, diabetes, asthma, anemia, sickle cell trait, lead exposure, deficits in hearing and vision, eye diseases and childhood obesity. We assess childhood immunizations by accessing the N. C. Immunization Registry. Children between the ages of 0 and 5 with missing immunizations will be referred to the County Health Department to receive them. Clinic follow-up on the NCIR confirms that the immunizations have been received. If they do not appear on the NCIR, we are in a great position to contact the mother to explore why. Information about averting childhood obesity is in development. This informational program will inform mothers about some "myths" or "misunderstandings" that can lead to childhood obesity and other health issues. For example, for most moms fruit juices are considered healthy. However, they are very high in calories. Water is a better alternative. Another example is that a slim child does not necessarily reflect a healthy child. Based on what they eat, fat may be collecting around their organs, increasing their risk of developing juvenile diabetes.
Our services and programs are continuously responding to meet new needs of our children and adult clients. These are two good examples.