Karen Hudson Dear Friends and Supporters,

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Homeless Health Initiative (HHI) celebrated a significant milestone in 2013: 25 years of supporting the healthcare needs of children in homeless shelters! What began as a resident advocacy project to take healthcare into local shelters has grown into a nationally recognized program that serves as a model across the nation.

HHI is a multidimensional program. It has grown from providing free health services and access to primary care services on site in shelters to include health education workshops for mothers and staff in shelters, a nutrition and fitness program on site for mothers and children, support for mothers of infants in shelter, and advocacy services.

During the past 25 years, poverty has increased in inner cities, bringing with it increased homelessness both in Philadelphia and nationwide. Women and children have become the fastest growing segment. Research has taught us much about the needs of these families and the impact homelessness has on them. These families have tremendous needs, including health, education and food security. The literature has informed us of the increasing rate of inappropriate utilization of the emergency room (ER) by those experiencing homelessness.

Thanks to the services of the HHI, CHOP has seen a decrease in the number of children experiencing homelessness using the ER. Additionally, HHI has helped to increase food security, teach healthy nutrition and physical fitness habits to families and children, and teach parenting skills to families in shelter. Overall, HHI has made significant contributions to the overall health and well-being of children and families in shelter.

HHI has been fortunate to be able to serve this vulnerable population and to work with many wonderful, talented HHI staff, volunteers, community and research partners, and philanthropic donors. HHI is especially grateful to all of you! In the process, HHI also has been blessed by its service to this population over the past quarter century.

HHI has truly become the gift that keeps on giving. We look forward to continuing to give to this special population for the next quarter century — or as long as necessary!

Karen M. Hudson, MSW, LSW, is program leader for the Homeless Health Initiative at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.