Monday Healthcare for Homeless

Community Health Centers Meet the Health Care Needs of People Experiencing Homelessness

In recognition of the Healthcare for the Homeless Day of National Health Center Week, Leah Ward of Yakima Neighborhood Health Services (YNHS) in Yakima, WA, provided a few stories of the patients they have impacted.



Rosy Navarro leads a digital navigation outreach program at Yakima Neighborhood Health Services. Here is a story she recently reported to us:

We had a team of Community Health Workers and Outreach and Enrollment specialists to the Union Gospel Mission homeless shelter. They came across a single father of 3 children who recently became homeless. Their ages are 2, 3, and 6. The team approached the father and asked if he would be interested in YNHS’ services. The father is currently unemployed due to a back injury. He asked that the team assist him with establishing medical care for his family, medical coverage, housing, and government assistance.


The father stated that part of the children’s custody agreement is that he needed each child to obtain a physical with a provider. The team could tell he was desperate for this to happen.


Dr. Sokolove had openings at the Washington Fruit Community Center (WFCC), where the mobile unit provides services for pediatric patients every Thursday. It was near the shelter, and there was availability. We contacted the receptionist assisting at WFCC and explained the situation. She scheduled all three children, and Dr. Sokolove was able to provide care for them.


I asked the respite team if they’d be able to provide transportation for the family from the shelter to our resource center to get them certified as homeless.


Since the children and father were establishing care with a provider at YNHS, the team offered to assist him with the portal so that he could keep track of all his family’s appointments. He was excited to know all the functionalities of the portal. He stated that, unfortunately, he didn’t have a phone and would like help obtaining one. He was happy to know he qualified for a Link to Care WA phone. He explained that he needed a phone to make and receive calls for all his children’s needs and future employment options once he gets treated for his back injury.


The teary-eyed father couldn’t express enough how thankful he was for the team pulling together to assist him. He was in disbelief that we could offer all the help he received. He now has hope for a better future for himself and his kids.


It truly does take a village, and this is a prime example of all hands-on deck.


Billy Martin knows what it means to struggle. As he recently told YNHS Case Manager Veronica Castaneda: “I’ve had a rough life growing up.”


In his teens, he was in and out of detention. When he became an adult, he was in and out of prison.

“I was in and out of institutions most of my life. As I would get out of prison, I would end up back in the prison system again. I was deemed a habitual criminal,” he said.


Billy had given up hope of ever having a good life until he learned his mother had severe health problems. “What made a big difference in not going back to prison was that I found out that my mother had cancer. It was hard losing my mother and trying to stay out of trouble.”


Veronica met Billy back in February 2019. He was homeless and struggling. “I told him, ‘You know whenever you get tired of what you are doing, come see me. If you want to turn your life around and work on sobriety and possibly get housing, come see me, I’m Veronica.'”


The next day they met in her office. Veronica explained the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) program and the services YNHS provided or could connect him to. He admitted that meth and alcohol were significant problems for him. He told her: “You know, Veronica, being on the street, you have to find ways to cope with your problems.”


Since that encounter, Billy has been enrolled in the program, applied for benefits, and reconnected with our medical team. We helped him apply for housing at the Mesa Apartments. He is coming up one year in his apartment and has been approved for a voucher that helps pay his rent.


He reached out to us when he was having an issue at the apartment complex, and, with our supportive help, he was able to get back on track. He has learned to become a good tenant. He still has some bad days but has come a long way. He is learning to ask for help when he needs it.


Currently, he is in the process of applying to get custody of his son from CPS. He is looking forward to having his son in his household. He told Veronica:

“Veronica, keep doing what you’re doing and pushing people to do things. If you had not been on me to do these things, I would still be on the street and not making good choices. That kept me wanting to do good for myself because I felt if you were working hard for me, then I am going to keep trying.”

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