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Healing for the Homeless

Providence House of Charity Clinic offers medical care—and much more—to the area’s most vulnerable

A newly-expanded Providence clinic aims to help our region’s most vulnerable population by bringing health care to a location where the need is greatest: one block from the House of Charity, in downtown Spokane. The new clinic was paid for by a generous grant from Providence Health Care Foundation, as well as Providence Community Benefit funds and proceeds from the Providence Sacred Heart Gift Shop.

Most patients can be treated right at the clinic rather than in a hospital emergency department. “Our goal is to offer the right care in the right place,” says Kelly Piger, senior director of physician practice for Providence Medical Group. Homeless people typically seek medical care in the emergency department. “Not only is that setting far costlier, but it crowds the ED with patients who could be treated elsewhere,” Piger says.

40 Years of Outreach

People can be treated at the Providence House of Charity Clinic and in some cases avoid a costly emergency department visit. (Photo by Catholic Health Association.)
People can be treated at the Providence House of Charity Clinic and in some cases avoid a costly emergency department visit. (Photo by Catholic Health Association.)

The Providence House of Charity Clinic, the oldest outreach facility in the state, was launched in 1976 in collaboration with Catholic Charities. Sister Peter Claver, Sacred Heart’s administrator at the time, saw a need to serve the chronically homeless, and Catholic Charities was—and remains—an ideal partner. The original clinic was in a small room inside the House of Charity and was staffed two half days a week by a group of dedicated volunteers.

The complex medical needs of Spokane’s poorest citizens have increased significantly over the last few years, so then Catholic Charities acquired a building near the House of Charity, the decision was made to relocate and expand this vital community resource.

The clinic is now open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., offering everything from treatment for common medical conditions to a comprehensive array of screenings, tests and immunizations.

Supporting the Mission

Clinic volunteers work hand in hand with House of Charity staff to identify patients and ensure their needs are being met. In fact, sometimes they don’t wait for patrons to show up at the clinic, but instead head over to the House of Charity and walk patients back to the clinic for much-needed care.

This clinic is the epitome of the Providence Mission,” Piger says. “It truly goes back to the roots of why we were founded.”

Volunteer physicians, registered nurses and advanced registered nurse practitioners remain the cornerstone of the new clinic but are now supplemented by three full-time paid Providence staff. “The volunteers are essential, but the full-time staff help us provide a continuity of care that is especially important for this population,” Piger says.

The new clinic offers the same quality, comprehensive care that people receive in more than 50 Providence locations throughout Spokane and Stevens counties. Access to electronic medical records allows staff to quickly review patient history and determine cost-effective treatment options, as well as avoid redundant care and ensure appropriate follow-up.

People come to the clinic for medical care but often end up receiving much more. “Our patients are usually on Apple Health [Washington state’s name for Medicaid], but if not, we have the ability to get them signed up while they are here,” Piger says.

Natalie Jackson, patient navigator, explains that clinic staff help patients access services including housing, transportation, and behavioral health and substance abuse programs. They also try to match patients with primary care providers, often at the Spokane Teaching Health Clinic.

“We may not offer all the necessary resources under this roof, but we can get them plugged in to the right areas,” Jackson says. “There are so many pieces to the puzzle—we’re trying to look at the bigger picture.” One recent patient left in tears of gratitude after Jackson provided her with a job lead.

“I tell every person who comes through the door about different services that are available to them,” Jackson says. “Some are ready, some are not, but when they’re ready, they know where to find us and we’ll be here for them.”