SOWING THE SEEDS OF OUTREACH
Beyond the city limits and out of view there lies a population of people living in the shadows. In camps and in makeshift shelters in the forests of Orange and Osceola Counties, hundreds of homeless people seek out a meager existence fraught with a lack of food, medical attention and, worst of all, hope. That’s until members of the Homeless Outreach Partnership Effort (H.O.P.E.) Team find them.
Sowing the Seeds of Outreach: Healthcare Center for the Homeless – HOPE Team
“HOPE is our outreach team with a mission to head out into the woods and try to find people who need medical care,” says Nancy Pfaff, a nurse on the HOPE Team. “I do an intake and eventually try to get them into a clinic and get them access to medication, dental, and mental health. But I also try to look at every aspect of their need—shelter, water, food, blankets, bug spray—whatever they need, we’ll take it there.”
HOPE’s Outreach Team delivers medical care to Central Florida’s homeless in the streets and camps in the woods to bring the invisible community out of the shadows.
When the HOPE Team found Donna Matthews last year, she was in dire straights. “I would be dead by now if not for them,” says Donna, who had recently suffered a heart attack but had no access to medication after her hospital stay. “They came to the camp where I was staying and they saw how distraught I was. They got me on medication and helped me get a place. Now I’m at the Salvation Army for Women.”
Pia Valvassori PhD, HOPE Team’s clinician, sees their work with Donna and others as part of a social responsibility. “A lot of these people have no means of support,” she says. “I consider myself a safety net provider. We have a tremendous number of people who need care and have no place to go. These people are invisible, most people just pass them by.”
But not the HOPE Team. “We are all God’s people,” says Nancy. “Life goes badly sometimes and some people just can’t cope. We need to be there for each other even if that just means giving someone a hug.”
For more information on Healthcare Center for the Homeless – HOPE Team please visit www.hcch.org.