Serving the Homeless at Community Health Centers

The holiday season is a time to reflect on our blessings and to show generosity and compassion to our neighbors and, in particular, to those in our communities who endure the greatest hardships. For individuals experiencing homelessness, the holiday season is the opposite of cozy – it is cold, harsh, and often an exceptional reminder of how very different their daily lives are from others who do not worry where they will sleep at night, what they will eat today, or how they will get the medications they need. With the holidays approaching and the temperatures dropping, we would like to highlight the incredible work that Colorado’s Community Health Centers (CHCs) do to serve the homeless within their communities.

CHCs across the nation share a common commitment (and requirement) to provide comprehensive medical, dental, and/or behavioral health care to all regardless of ability to pay. CHCs must also have a sliding fee scale in place, whereby the CHC shall adjust discounts on the basis of a patient’s ability to pay. It is for these reasons that CHCs are oftentimes the only clinics in a given area that will provide affordable primary health care services to homeless individuals within the community. While nearly all twenty CHCs in Colorado serve some homeless patients, nine receive additional federal funding to provide care to homeless patients in areas where the homeless population is especially sizeable or the need is especially great.  These CHCs are Axis Health System (serving La Plata and Montezuma counties), Clinica Family Health (serving Adams, Boulder, and Broomfield counties), Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (serving the city and county of Denver and Bent County), Denver Health’s Community Health Services (serving the city and county of Denver), Metro Community Provider Network (serving Arapahoe, Adams, Jefferson, Douglas and Park counties), Peak Vista Community Health Centers (serving El Paso, Adams, Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert, Kit Carson, Lincoln, Park, and Teller counties), Pueblo Community Health Center (serving Pueblo and Huerfano counties), Sunrise Community Health (serving Weld and Larimer counties), and Valley-Wide Health Systems, Inc. (serving Alamosa, Bent, Cheyenne, Conejos, Costilla, Crowley, Delta, Fremont, Garfield, Kit Carson, Mesa, Mineral, Otero, Rio Grande, and Saguache counties).

During this holiday season, CCHN hopes that medical professionals and all who are interested in community health careers will think of the homeless, and will be inspired by the work that CHCs do every day all year long to bring individuals experiencing homelessness the comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally appropriate primary health care services that every citizen deserves. To show your support for causes that serve the homeless, consider attending the Homeless Persons’ Memorial Vigil on Wednesday, December 21 at 5:30 p.m. on the steps of the Denver City and County Building, 1437 Bannock Street. The vigil will be in remembrance of all those who lost their lives living on the streets in 2016.