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When Nurse Practitioner Judith Coffey met her patient, a young woman scheduled for a medical assessment, she knew there was more to her condition than what could be assessed by a basic medical checkup. The patient, who had been experiencing homelessness, was avoiding showering and had a habit of pulling out her hair. After an hour of gentle conversation, Coffey learned the woman was suffering from extreme trauma and was using poor hygiene as a deterrent for unwanted male attention. This trauma was exacerbating her homelessness and hindering her ability to receive care.

A smiling woman in a nurse's uniform sits in a chair
Nurse Practitioner Judith Coffey (Source)

Unfortunately, this was familiar to Coffey. There are nearly 80,000 men, women, and children in New York City who experience homelessness, and the death rate of this vulnerable demographic is nearly 3 – 4 times higher than that of the rest of the population. For many of these individuals, problematic medical conditions are made worse by the lack of a home, and vice versa. When your immediate concern is obtaining food and shelter, medical care is often de-prioritized or simply inaccessible. And finding your way out of homelessness can feel even more insurmountable when suffering from a medical condition. It’s a vicious cycle.

Care For the Homeless (CFH) is a non-profit organization dedicated to meeting the medical, mental, and behavioral needs of people experiencing homelessness. Founded in 1985, their twenty-seven healthcare delivery sites serve 7,000 – 8,000 individuals a year throughout the boroughs of New York City. These sites provide a wide scope of high-quality, client-centered care, including basic medical care, behavioral healthcare services, oral health and podiatry care.

Judith Coffey provides assessments at one such site, the Franklin Women’s Assessment Center. At the center, women experiencing homelessness are given a mental and physical health assessment at the beginning of their three-week stay. These health screenings play an important role in helping the center place women in a shelter that will best fit their needs. To Coffey, her patient’s story supports CFH’s belief that treating the whole person, not just their immediate medical condition, is essential to building a road out of homelessness.

CFH’s commitment to providing care to those who need it most aligns perfectly with WELLReceived’s belief that caring is the answer. That’s why we’re thrilled to donate $3,000 to Care For the Homeless as part of our Giving Back program. It is our hope that this contribution will help people like Coffey continue to provide people experiencing homelessness with trauma-informed care.

Coffey heard back from her patient, who called some time later to inform her she was doing well. The medical care and safe haven provided by CFH helped the young woman get back on her feet. We thank CFH and nurse practitioners like Judith Coffey for treating homelessness as a condition that can be treated, and not a defining characteristic.

Have suggestions for a medical non-profit you’d like to see us donate to? Leave a comment below!

Sources

  1. https://www.careforthehomeless.org/news/judith-coffey/
  2. https://www.bowery.org/homelessness/
  3. Care For the Homeless. State of Healthcare in the Homeless Population. [PDF]
  4. Care For the Homeless. CFH Facts. [PDF]

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Terri Phillips

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