Health Care for the Homeless opens new clinic

Posted at 5:45 PM, Jan 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-29 18:03:29-05

It's estimated that almost 3,000 people in Baltimore are considered homeless.  They live on the streets, bounce from shelter to shelter, or "couch surf" at family and friends homes. 

The staff at Health Care for the Homeless are on a mission to not only find those homeless people at place to live, but to also get their health problems in check.

"We see people who haven't been getting care for many, many years," said Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, the chief medical officer at Health Care for the Homeless.  "They're in a much further stage than the rest of the population."

On average, Health Care for the Homeless sees about 400 patients a day, spread across their four stationary clinics and one mobile clinic.  They recently opened a second clinic in the city in West Baltimore, at Bon Secours Hospital.  They also have one in Baltimore County and another in Harford County.

Dr. Kalyanaraman says last year they served about 9,800 people, which is an increase of about 3,000 over the past three years since he started working with Health Care for the Homeless.  It's one of the reasons why they decided to open a clinic in West Baltimore, so they could help even more people get off the street.

"The longer people are homeless, the harder it is for them to restart their lives," he said.  "They lose their family connections, they start to be out of the workplace for awhile and no one wants to hire them."

The patients who walk through the doors at Health Care for the Homeless are given comprehensive treatment, according to Katie League, the clinic's director of community services.  They're treated for medical problems, like joint pains, diabetes, and heart problems.  They also treat substance abuse and address any mental health issues, which are common among Baltimore's homeless.

"That's what our care teams are all about, focusing on that individual and really looking at the person and what their path to stability looks like."

The care teams also work to help find their patients affordable housing, which League and Dr. Kalyanaraman say is the biggest challenge facing Baltimore's homeless right now.  They do a lot of outreach within the communities to find those who are in need and get them the help and treatment to bring stability back into their lives.

"We do see folks who do need that intensive level of services, but once they get stabilized, they're able to start looking for jobs and support themselves," said Dr. Kalyanaraman.  "We have moms and dads who get work and get housed and they come back to us a few years later to say thank you.  That's really what we live for."

"The staff is constantly ending homelessness and certainly the need is expansive," said League.  "Part of our mission is ending homelessness and we don't take that lightly."

Of course, fundraising is a huge part of keeping the services and treatments free to patients.  On Saturday, February 6 they are holding one of their more popular events "Chocolate Affair."  Tickets are still available.  Click here for more information on the event and how to purchase a ticket.