Homeless Health Initiative: Claire Pellak's Story

Claire Pellak, RN, CPN, began volunteering in 2007, when the After Hours Program at CHOP collected holiday gifts for residents of Lutheran Settlement House/Jane Addams Place. Pellak is one of the the After Hours Program's nurses.

She and the other nurses are specially trained to provide telephone triage, assessment, advice and access-to-care information for parents when their child's CHOP pediatrician is not available.

The more Pellak learned about the Homeless Health Initiative (HHI), the more she became involved. Now, she organizes a monthly community meeting at Jane Addams Place, where she covers pediatric health topics.

To make it fun for the mothers who attend, she uses a game show format that's based on Jeopardy. Participants form teams and try to answer health-related questions. Residents are often very knowledgeable, but Pellak uses the opportunity to clear up any misinformation and misconceptions.

Recently, when the topic was asthma, she was able to inform a mother that her daughter’s severe asthma should not prevent her from participating in gym class. Armed with information, the mother promised to ask her daughter’s pediatrician for controller medicine and an asthma action plan.

Helping families brings Pellak great satisfaction. She recognizes the vulnerable position of mothers who are experiencing homelessness with their children, and applauds their bravery. Helping to improve their lives — if only in a small way — is the reason Pellak takes time from her busy life to build relationships and to share health information at Jane Addams Place.

Originally posted: May 2013