It’s been called “a little bit of hope and health on wheels” but the Children’s Health Fund program in Phoenix, implemented through a strong partnership with Phoenix Children’s Hospital, knows that delivering high quality health care to poor children and families can also mean staying home – especially if that home is the United Methodist Outreach Ministries (UMOM) New Day Center.
UMOM’s Phoenix facility is the largest shelter for families experiencing homelessness in the state, providing a safe and service-enriched environment that recognizes and integrates the many variables needed to solve the homeless equation. Recently I visited the Children’s Health Fund-supported clinic at UMOM, as well as other shelters, schools, and drop in centers where CHF works throughout Phoenix, and was amazed at the not only the collaborative space that social service providers are sharing, but how they are joining together in a common mission to end homelessness with each being part of the solution.
Keeping families together as they make their way out of homelessness is not unlike making a quilt. Medical care, child care, education for kids and parents, legal advice, and of course life skills are all essential if families are to build or rebuild their lives and succeed when they leave homelessness and make their way out of poverty. The quilt of support – illustrated by the array of services – was on full display at UMOM the day I was there.
CHF’s iconic big-blue mobile medical clinic had been redeployed and a fixed facility – meaning a permanent clinic – had been opened at the New Day Center. There, working in partnership with UMOM’s leadership and other service providers, the quilt of support needed was being fashioned, one piece at a time, and not just providing a safety net, but weaving together a springboard of services to ensure children and families are able to reach their full potential. Day care, Head Start, teen activity programs, a wellness center, a child development center, and a workforce development center – all were buzzing with activity. There was even a social enterprise café providing hands-on mentoring – and each of these services were co-located and working to common purpose, providing the resources and tools to rebuild lives.
With each visit to another CHF-supported service location, some mobile and some fixed, I was inspired by the dedication of our staff and reminded that we are indeed stronger together. That while each of us has a role to play, it is when we join hands and hearts that we complete the quilt of care that children need to survive and thrive. “Hope and health on wheels” is part of the solution, and our partnership with Phoenix Children’s Hospital is testament to how we can all manifest this mission.