As cities along the West Coast struggle with a burgeoning homelessness crisis, the National Health Care for the Homeless Council’s Organizational Member Neighborcare Health is celebrating 50 years of providing care to vulnerable populations across Seattle. A partner in the Health Care for the Homeless Network of King County, Neighborcare Health has four programs specifically aimed at providing care to people experiencing homelessness—Neighborcare Health at Ballard Clinic, Health Housing Outreach Team (HHOT), REACH Street Outreach Nursing, and the Neighborcare Health Youth Clinic.
Joanna den Haan, Homeless and Housing Programs Manager, credits membership in the National HCH Council with keeping Neighborcare Health up-to-date on issues in the HCH field. She says, “Being an Organizational Member of the Council has helped us to stay up on relevant issues concerning organizations providing health care to people experiencing homelessness. We have also been able to engage with the Administrators Committee, which is a wealth of knowledge for people who are involved in leading HCH work in their community or organization.”
Providing Safe Spaces for Care
Access to care is a challenge for people experiencing homelessness and individuals in permanent supportive housing (PSH). Neighborcare Health narrows this service gap by embedding medical and behavioral health providers in sixteen of Seattle’s PSH sites through HHOT. This nurse-led model provides health care to PSH residents and others, and more importantly, gives patients a safe space to discuss their health and feel a human connection.
Creating safe spaces while building trust is an integral part of Neighborcare Health’s work. Kevonya Elzia, a Registered Nurse with HHOT, explains, “When you feel safe and have that trust, then you can grow, work, and explore other things. If you don’t have anybody that you can trust, you feel isolated and alone.” Kevonya uses creative methods to engage and connect, including incorporating color, fragrance, music, and inspirational messages into her clinic space. She sees the positive effect of
these seemingly small sensory details in those who now trust her for care and company. She shares this patient story: “One gentleman I take care of loves the 1970s, and I actually have a 70s playlist for him. When I ask if he can come see me, he says, ‘Yes,and we’re listening to the Commodores.’” It’s this type of personalized care that makes Neighborcare Health stand out.
Cultivating Human Connections Throughout HCH
Neighborcare Health Youth Clinic also emphasizes this human connection. Dean Williams, the winner of the Council’s 2018 John N. Lozier Scholarship for New Members, is a Community Health Worker at the clinic and has lived experience of homelessness. As he puts it, “You sometimes feel less than human. But whenever I went to the youth clinic that I now work at, I was treated like a real person. People would talk to me, have casual conversations that you wouldn’t really think are that important, but to someone like me was everything. And now in my work, I try to be that same person.”
Neighborcare Health also recognizes the advantages of facilitating links within the HCH community through Council membership. Den Haan says, “The camaraderie and support within the Council is irreplaceable. There is always someone to turn to who has been in the work and in the field longer, or who may bring a new and different perspective. It is powerful to be connected to people from around the country who are doing similar work and implicitly understand what you are going through.”
The Council congratulates Neighborcare Health on 50 years of improving the health of Seattle’s most vulnerable and going the extra mile to meet the physical and emotional needs of their patients.
Learn more about Neighborcare Health and Organizational Membership with the National HCH Council.