Everyone’s experienced something ‘going around’ at work or school before—suddenly it feels like half your staff is out sick. That happens here at the Urban Ministry Center College Street campus sometimes, but what almost always happens simultaneously is that we see sick neighbors too. And while we usually have over-the-counter medications to help them–pain relievers, cold and flu medicine, cough drops, antacids, our neighbors take much longer to recover. Where we pop back after a day, or three, they are suffering for weeks on end.
That’s just a bug. Imagine if you had a serious chronic illness. This month we’ve received prescriptions for 155 neighbors who do not have another reliable place to send or hold their medicine. Sometimes we hold medicine to help someone maintain privacy about their health. For instance, those taking HIV meds trust us to keep their medicine safe while they stay outside and maintain their confidentiality. And almost always we have some medicine in our refrigerators; right now, there are four neighbors sleeping outside without the ability to store their insulin, so they come to UMC each day to take their medicine.
Significant health needs are woven throughout homelessness and so Urban Ministry Center has purposefully partnered with several agencies to serve our neighbors experiencing homelessness at the College Street location. Doctors and other medical professionals donate their time to hold clinics during Room In The Inn or for our Street Outreach to help their chronically homeless clients get care and begin the process of documenting their disabilities.
Each Thursday morning the Health Department comes to UMC to provide free HIV testing to neighbors. They have built relationships with many of our neighbors, keeping them informed and healthy.
UMC can provide vouchers for many prescriptions (no narcotics) for those who have been served at Atrium. The state of North Carolina pays for those meds after UMC verifies their homelessness. In addition, we were able to provide 95 people with prescriptions from January-June this year from other pharmacies for just under $2,000.
The second Friday of every month the Ada Jenkins dental van comes to Urban Ministry Center. It’s a heartbreaking morning to see everyone lined up for dental care. With few low cost or free dental services in Charlotte, we see many people struggling to make it, but prioritize those who are in shelters or sleeping outside first. We turn people away every month, but usually have enough slots available for those experiencing homelessness. Volunteer dentists and hygienists provide fillings, extractions, and cleanings at no charge to the patient. It can be an emotional time for some who get relief from excruciating pain. 123 patients were served by the dental van at UMC from January-June this year.
One of Neighbor Services’ most significant partners is the Charlotte Community Health Clinic (CCHC). Nurse Amy sees anyone who is uninsured at UMC and the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte. Last year she provided 2,488 visits for neighbors at UMC. In recognition of National Health Center Week, CCHC and UMC partnered to provide a Health Fair at our College Street campus on Wednesday, August 15. In addition to UMC and CCHC, participating organizations included Cannon Pharmacy, Cardinal Innovations, Care Ring, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library, Community Blood Center of the Carolinas, CREW, Exodus Foundation, Mecklenburg County, Modern Salon and Spa, Needle Exchange, Promise Resource Network, RAIN, Senior Benefit Center, Smart Start, Veteran Services Organization, WIC, Women’s Health, and volunteer Autumn Stobart who collected donations and provided 150 packed hygiene bags.
It was festive and engaging with over 150 people participating. Neighbor Services Director Vickie Craighead-Davis said, “Health is critical during the experience of homelessness. Today was a way we can show them how much we care. Amy Warner is the leader of health care for UMC as she engages, provides treatment and sometimes just laughter as our special population health care provider. I want to thank all the vendors who came out to participate with us in this event. I can’t wait until next year.”