By: Alyssa Kirchenbaum, University of Pennsylvania student

After a recent Women’s Wellness program at PEC, I had the opportunity to sit down with PEC resident Miss J and talk about the impact CHOP’s Homeless Health Initiative (HHI) has had on her life and that of her children.

Miss J Miss J participated in the knitting program at PEC. We’d just spent an hour knitting and talking with other volunteers at the shelter. Miss J says she’s been living in a PEC shelter for about 18 months — first in emergency housing, and then in transitional housing. She consistently attends Women’s Wellness and Mom’s Art, both programs offered by HHI. Her son participates in SPARK, HHI’s youth fitness program, and gets regular check-ups at CHOP Night health clinics held at the shelter.

Miss J says CHOP has had a tremendous influence on her life. As a Philadelphia native, she was a CHOP patient from birth until she turned 18 — and even then, she didn’t want to transition to adult healthcare. “I cried and begged them to let me stay when they told me I was too old to go to CHOP anymore,” Miss J says. “I loved it there!”

Now a parent, Miss J says she appreciates CHOP even more. Her youngest son has a heart condition, and she frequently brings him to CHOP for tests, monitoring and treatments. Each time her family returns to CHOP, she is impressed by the care and knowledge of CHOP providers, and the comprehensive facilities where he receives care. All four of Miss J’s children have been seen by CHOP pediatricians.

Miss J will be leaving the shelter system soon and moving into her own home. During this monumental transition, she says she’s grateful to CHOP for providing consistent and reliable support for her son’s complex medical needs. Once her family is settled, Miss J says she’d like to continue her involvement with HHI programming as a volunteer knitting and crocheting teacher.

As a social work intern with HHI, I am so grateful to work for CHOP and the opportunity it’s given me to meet so many remarkable women — like Miss J — and their families.

When I first joined HHI, Miss J showed me the ins-and-outs of PEC. She taught me about West Philadelphia, shared her stories as a mother living in a shelter, and supported me as I worked toward my master’s degree in social work. It’s been a true collaboration!