In 1988, medical residents and nurses at CHOP recognized that children living in emergency housing shelters just blocks from the Hospital had little access to medical care and support. To address this community need, CHOP's Homeless Health Initiative (HHI) was created. Today, HHI provides free health services to families living in local emergency housing shelters in the Philadelphia and NJ area. The program is invested in building strong, collaborative partnerships with local emergency shelters and relies on the commitment of employee volunteers to provide high-quality medical and dental care, as well as health education to partner shelter residents.
The pandemic has highlighted that homelessness occurs in communities beyond Philadelphia and therefore CHOP's HHI has an obligation to support the homeless shelters we serve across the region.
Last year, HHI established a new partnership with the YWCA Bucks County Haven House, a new temporary safe house scheduled to open in August 2021. Haven House is designed to support the needs of victims of human trafficking by bridging the gap in services between crisis, housing/advocacy and permanent housing. YWCA wanted Haven House to convey a message of happiness, hope and support. To help make this happen, they needed assistance sprucing up the space. HHI's Program Leader, Karen Hudson, reached out to the Office of Community Relations' Employee Engagement & Volunteering program and one of their local partners Temple University Master in Occupational Therapy Program to assist with volunteer recruitment. Together, 21 CHOP employees, Temple University OT students and YWCA Board members, along with their family members and colleagues, volunteered three Saturdays in June to organize, clean, paint and decorate the interior and exterior of Haven House.
"It was a collaborative effort. It allowed volunteers the opportunity to better understand homelessness, appreciate local community needs and make a difference by supporting a local organization in their mission to address community health and wellness needs." said Karen. "Temple University's Master In Occupational Therapy Program has collaborated closely with CHOP's HHI program for many years, and we were thrilled to be included in the invaluable work that the Bucks County YWCA is doing to support individuals fleeing human trafficking at their Haven House. I look forward to how our students, and faculty can continue to use the occupational therapy lens to support both HHI and the Bucks YWCA to empower people to meaningfully participate in life activities," said Erica Pugh, Academic Fieldwork Coordinator.
The YWCA was grateful for and touched by the support. "We are extremely grateful for the support of CHOP. We had a ton of things that needed to get done in order to have the Haven House ready for our clients and CHOP was there to help us get things accomplished! Thanks for helping us make the Haven House a safe, beautiful and welcoming place for the clients! The women and children at the Haven House will benefit from this partnership! Everyone at the YWCA is grateful for the support and involvement of CHOP. Thanks so much," said Guillaume Stewart, Executive Director.
HHI will continue to build new partnerships with emergency shelters in the region, to understand the needs of families experiencing homelessness and to develop a plan to address unmet needs. We thank all the volunteers for their continued support and dedication to the community.
We would like to thank our community partners and all CHOP employees that volunteered!