Homeless Health Initiative: Sally Poliwoda's Story

Sally Poliwoda Image From the earliest days of the Homeless Health Initiative in 1988, when a few residents and nurses from CHOP's Emergency Department began offering medical checkups at shelters, Sally Poliwoda, BSN, RN, has been a volunteer.

As the Homeless Health Initiative (HHI) has grown, so has Poliwoda’s involvement in the program and her commitment to helping families experiencing homelessness.

Working with HHI draws upon Poliwoda’s nursing skills and expertise in a totally different way than working at the Hospital. It requires more creativity and flexibility to treat patients outside the walls of CHOP.

As coordinator of the Community Nursing Advocacy Fellowship (CNAF) for the past four years, she also connects the fellows to opportunities at the shelters HHI serves. Each year, nurse fellows work on multiple HHI projects. This provides the fellows with firsthand knowledge of the challenges children living in shelters and their families face and builds their capacity to advocate for children and families.

Since 2010, Poliwoda has been part of the HHI leadership team as the Nursing Leader. She has taken on the responsibility of coordinating nurse volunteers from around CHOP and improving nursing practice. She has also incorporated nursing students into the shelter visits on CHOP Nights.

The best times are when one of the children or mothers she has come to know gives her a big hug when she arrives at a shelter. It shows that making connections on a personal level is as important as providing healthcare.

It’s these personal connections that drive her to work harder, advocate louder and push the boundaries of what is possible.

Originally posted: May 2013