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 and staying in the Salvation Army Center of Hope, the region's largest shelter for homeless women and children. All shelter residents may access our free walk-in clinic simply by showing their shelter ID. Lacking money and Medicaid, for most of our clients, the free clinic is their only source of healthcare.
Our mission focuses on the end-benefit of having access to our clinic. To remove health issues as barriers to self-sufficiency for homeless women, and as impediments to development and readiness to learn 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. For children, health issues can negatively impact educational, emotional, mental, behavioral, social and even recreational development.
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). Our Extended Care Program allows both adults and children clients without Medicaid to access the clinic's free services even after they have left the shelter.
County Point-In-Time Homeless Study
Results of the 2015 Mecklenburg County Point-In-Time study of homelessness were released in April, 2016. The news headline in the Charlotte Observer read, "Charlotte's homeless population is decreasing." The overall decrease was 9%, which was driven mostly by a decrease in the larger male homeless population and less availability of transitional housing in 2015. In this study, residents of transitional housing are counted as homeless.
But for the population we serve, the story is quite different. It is said that, "The devil is in the details." Here are some excellent examples: Homeless females without children living in emergency/seasonal shelters increased 29% in 2015. This is on top of a 37% increase in 2014. Overall there was a total two-year increase of 66%. Homeless families (females with children) living in emergency/seasonal shelters increased 2% in 2015. This was on top of a 15% increase in 2014. Overall there was a total two-year increase of 17%. The challenges of Shelter Health Services, and all agencies that help homeless women and children, has increased dramatically over these past two years.
New Clinic Services/Programs
Several new services/programs have been launched. Pre-Diabetes screening identifies early signs of diabetes onset (A1C between 5.7% and 6.4%). If pre-diabetic, we intervene with tools that facilitate weight loss to avert or delay its onset. Weight loss is key. Pedometers are provided to track daily walking distance, with the purpose of increasing the distance daily. Bi-weekly Zumba sessions offer energetic exercise. Reducing intake of calories and fats is also key. Sports water bottles and no-calorie flavoring are provided to replace sweet tea and sodas. Fruit and health bars replace chips and cookies. Smart Ones and Lean Cuisine entrees replace cafeteria meals. We don't expect anybody to pass up hand-made fried chicken and mac' & cheese but periodically substituting a more nutritious entree can have an impact. Results after one year show that 64% of program participants with sufficient weight data to analyze lost an average of 10 pounds representing 4.6% of their body weight. NIH and CDC guidelines aim at weight loss of 5% to 7% of body weight in 12 months. Based on the average shelter stay of 4 to 6 months, weight loss targets are on track to be achieved. A1C is more difficult to measure because A1C readings are taken every three months. Many program participants leave the shelter before their next A1C reading. Data on these participants is being collected to determine the impact on their A1C readings. However, based on the Program's success at reducing body weight, we're optimistic that A1C will also be reduced.
In response to an increase of 34% of infants, toddlers and pre-school children 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. Information about averting childhood obesity includes informing 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 or milk are better alternatives.
Our services and programs are continuously responding to meet new needs of our children and adult clients. These are two good examples.