Helping homeless women and children
Those who need healthcare the most, yet have the least access.
Shelter Health Services provides free healthcare and health education 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. 61% of the homeless women and children living in emergency/transitional housing stay in the Center of Hope. All may access our clinic simply by showing their shelter ID. Lacking money and Medicaid, they truly rely on the free clinic for their 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 become a part of the community is what virtually every woman in the shelter is trying to achieve. But poor health can cause or will prolong homelessness
County Point-In-Time Homeless Study
The Mecklenburg County Point-In-Time study of homelessness results and conclusions will be released in late March, 2015. Last year the news headline was Homelessness dips 17%. However, not reported was that homeless women increased 32%. A brief mention was made of homeless families increasing 57% over the past five years. This is the population we serve. Uninsured, medically indigent, homeless women and children living in poverty. We will 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. 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.
You have read much about the measles spread and immunizations. We will 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. Averting childhood obesity is in development for pre-schoolers (ages 0 to 5). This informational program will inform mothers about some "myths" or "misunderstandings" that can lead to childhood obesity and other health issues. For example, 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 new needs of our clients. These are three good examples.