By Dennis Spellman
Nov. 1, 2022
HOUSTON, TX - St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Houston’s Midtown neighborhood has been serving the homeless population for years. One year ago, the University of Houston College of Nursing added a Nurse-managed Health Clinic that expanded the care provided to the homeless and working poor. It attracted clients in search of services and volunteers in search of opportunities to give back.
“The UH Clinic is the medical link in the chain of care for homeless clients,” said attorney Scott Ramsey who volunteers at the clinic with his wife, Cindy. “The staff provides basic medical care, screening, tests, medications and referrals for clients who are part of a vulnerable group whose health needs go largely untreated.”
The Ramsey’s are members of St. Paul’s, which is how they became involved with the Clinic.
“Our work at the Clinic is a continuation of our interest in helping those Houston organizations trying to end homelessness in our city,” Ramsey said.
Located at the Abraham Station on the campus of St. Paul’s at 5401 Fannin Street, the clinic draws patients from those who visit the food pantry and clothing center operated by the Emergency Aid Coalition (EAC).
Before UH opened the nurse-managed clinic, the EAC and the homeless advocacy organization SEARCH were already providing vital services to the homeless and working poor. The UH Clinic completes the circle of services already in place at St. Paul’s. The organization feeds 250 people daily in an interfaith effort supported by the members of fifteen churches, mosques, and synagogues. It’s been helping those in need for 40 years.
“The best way to provide the homeless with healthcare is to take it directly to them,” said UH’s Shainy Varghese, associate professor of nursing, nurse practitioner, and clinic director. “The working poor come to get groceries and clothing. The homeless come for sack lunches.“
Nursing students also receive hands-on experience in caring for these populations.
“At the clinic, Cindy and I do preliminary blood pressure and educate clients about the services offered by the clinic. Then, when needed, we will direct clients to clinic staff,” Ramsey said. “We also assist, when asked, in obtaining clothes, backpacks, and other simple requests for the clients. We will also pair clients with EAC staff to handle larger or recurring requests.”
While the Clinic has received support from foundations and donors, Varghese says support of volunteers also is essential.
“They are very passionate about what they are doing and very humble, and they are both interested in supporting the clinic team with the blood pressure clinic,” she said. “Scott and Cindy are wonderful members and have served in many ways at the church.”
“Although most of the people we have dealt with at the clinic are living on the street and faced with almost insurmountable problems, they are gracious and hopeful, courteous and friendly, and not filled with anger and rage at their situation,” Ramsey said. “They are resilient and respond like we all do to basic kindness and need human contact, a helpful word, and a friendly face.
“Their efforts have produced striking results, and Houston has become a model for ending homelessness,” Ramsey said.