Healing for the Homeless

November 26, 2019

Providence House of Charity Clinic offers medical care—and much more—to Spokane’s most vulnerable

Man receives are in clinicThe Providence clinic aims to help the community’s most vulnerable population by bringing health care to a location where the need is greatest: one block from the House of Charity, in downtown Spokane. The clinic, funded by Providence Community Benefit and Providence Health Care Foundation, is providing more than just health care.

Most patients can be treated right at the clinic rather than in a hospital emergency department. “Our goal is to offer the right care in the right place,” says Kelly Piger, senior director of physician practice for Providence Medical Group. Homeless people typically seek medical care in the emergency department. “Not only is that setting far costlier, but it crowds the ED with patients who could be treated elsewhere,” Piger says.

40 Years of Outreach

The Providence House of Charity Clinic, is the oldest outreach facility in the state. Sister Peter Claver, Sacred Heart’s administrator at the time, saw a need to serve the chronically homeless, and Catholic Charities was—and remains—an ideal partner. The clinic was launched in 1976 in collaboration with Catholic Charities and housed in a small room at the House of Charity shelter until August of 2017. The original clinic was open two and half days a week. The complex medical needs of Spokane’s poorest citizens have increased significantly over the last few years. To address the increased needs, Catholic Charities acquired a building near the House of Charity and the decision was made to relocate and expand this vital community resource.

The clinic is now open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., offering everything from treatment for common medical conditions to a comprehensive array of screenings, tests and immunizations.

Supporting the Mission

Clinic volunteers work hand in hand with House of Charity staff to identify patients and ensure their needs are being met. In fact, sometimes they don’t wait for patrons to show up at the clinic, but instead head over to the House of Charity and walk patients back to the clinic for much-needed care.

This clinic is the epitome of the Providence Mission,” Piger says. “It truly goes back to the roots of why we were founded.”

Volunteer physicians, registered nurses and advanced registered nurse practitioners remain the cornerstone of the new clinic. The opening of the new clinic added four full-time paid Providence staff. “The volunteers are essential, but the full-time staff help us provide a continuity of care that is especially important for this population,” Piger says.

The new clinic offers the same quality and comprehensive care people receive in more than 50 Providence locations throughout Spokane and Stevens counties. Access to electronic medical records allows staff to quickly review patient history and determine cost-effective treatment options, as well as avoid redundant care and ensure appropriate follow-up.

People come to the clinic for medical care but often end up receiving much more. “Our patients are usually on Apple Health [Washington state’s name for Medicaid], but if not, we have the ability to get them signed up while they are here,” Piger says.

Because of the complex needs of those served, a social worker is now positioned in the clinic and specializes in working with people who are poor and vulnerable. This navigator role assists patients with guidance to community resources, transportation to get to resources and behavioral health counseling sessions.

“This team interacts with so many community partners and provides a holistic care approach to serving those in need,” says Piger. “We will continue to live out the Mission set by the Sisters of Providence so long ago.”