A local health center launches event to serve the homeless population
Cartiey Martin was cutting a person’s hair at Regional Health Reach’s Health Care for the Homeless event when he said he, too, had once experienced homelessness.
Martin and other barbers from Brothers and Sisters Unisex salon volunteered to provide free haircuts to those attending Monday’s fair, which took place at Alexander Park Patio in Rochester.
He saw the event as a way to pass on a kindness he received during a difficult time in his life.
“I love public service,” Martin said. “I love being in a community giving back. It's a beautiful thing.”
Regional Health Reach is a federally qualified health care center affiliated with Rochester Regional Health. The center focuses on serving people experiencing housing insecurities, regardless of their ability to pay.
Dr. Mike Hudson, CEO of the center, and his street medicine team say they pride themselves on meeting the community where they’re at. He said the organization’s first-ever health fair for the homeless is an extension of its street outreach services. He hopes to make it an annual event.
“If you have insurance, if you don't have insurance, it doesn't matter, we're going to take care of you,” Hudson said.
But Hudson added he understands that having access to medical care is only part of the problem.
"We wanted to put a fair together to really recognize that, you know, medical care is just a piece of the problem," Hudson said. "It's a piece of the puzzle. It's not the be all and end all for folks, if you don't have a roof over your head, who cares about your high blood pressure — you need to get food in your belly.”
Nearly 900 people at any point in time in Rochester are experiencing homelessness and possibly 10 times more are facing housing insecurity, Hudson said. Those are the individuals Regional Health Reach is targeting.
“We really strive to provide comprehensive wraparound services for all of our patients and for everyone experiencing homelessness in Rochester,” he said.
At the health fair, representatives from the Department of Motor Vehicles were on hand to issue IDs. It also included vendors such as one handing out free cellphones and plans to attendees.
“You can't function in a modern society without a cellphone,” Hudson said. “And once you have a phone, you can actually start connecting with the care that you need.”
Hudson said he anticipated that roughly 400 people would pass through the fair.
Atalene Walker stopped by to get her blood sugar checked.
“I have sugar, but I'm doing good,” Walker said. “Just making sure I’m all right.”
She said she heard about the fair after being handed a flyer in her apartment building and that it’s an event she appreciates.
“It's OK. I like it. It's all right,” Walker said.