By 2018, the Salvation Army’s Miami Red Shield Lodge was already a well-established, beloved community institution. With 256 beds, their trusted programming was known for doing more than just providing a place to sleep. They helped people experiencing homelessness put their lives back together, find and stay in stable jobs and transition to financial independence.
There was one glitch, though: many Salvation Army clients came to the facility with chronic health and mental health conditions. Getting doctors and practitioners to visit the shelter on reliable schedules proved challenging, as did providing a quality clinical environment. And so, with no consistent medical support, many of the clients were often referred to nearby emergency rooms.
Enter the Camillus Health Concern, another Miami institution that had long been providing comprehensive medical care to and serving people experiencing homelessness. With support from a $340,000 grant from the Health Foundation of South Florida in 2018, Camillus and Salvation Army partnered to open the Health Resource Center at the shelter.
The funding allowed the Salvation Army to purchase top-of-the-line medical equipment and supplies; and a team of advanced registered nurse practitioners from Camillus to start providing on-site services. Camillus also brought to the table much-needed liability coverage and billing services and began collecting the data necessary to help track the new program’s effectiveness.
Within just one a year all shelter residents and new clients had access reliable healthcare, with a majority of medical services focusing on management of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart COPD and asthma, and PPD testing for tuberculosis. More recently, the Salvation Army also hired a full-time licensed mental health counselor to provided behavioral health services including crisis intervention, assessment and individual counseling sessions.
If the coordination of such services wasn’t enough of a milestone, the metrics they soon reported became the most heartening part of their story:
by 2020, the Salvation Army reported a whopping 65 percent decrease in emergency room referrals.
Just as meaningful is a success that’s not as easily measured. While the partnership dates back to 2018, having it in place when the COVID19 pandemic hit in early 2020 meant the Salvation Army stood ready to confront the unprecedented challenges that came their way. The Health Resource Centers was able to provide testing that helped safeguard the health and safety of all their residents and staff. Today, most clients entering the shelter are screened for COVID-19 and provided initial health assessment all at once—ensuring safety even in the most uncertain of times.