Common Ailments Among the Homeless
How You Can Help
The homeless population in Pennsylvania is recorded to be over 13,000 people. This includes families, veterans, young adults (aged 18 to 24), and those experiencing chronic homelessness. These are people who may be experiencing problems like lack of affordable housing and poverty, among other things. This is a serious problem, but you can help.
Homelessness also brings about serious consequences to overall health and well-being. And as it is very likely that those who are experiencing homelessness would not be able to afford healthcare, the smallest gestures and assistance can go a long way. As Director of Residential Programs, Leah Dietrich explains, "One of the largest challenges is access. Homeless individuals are often transient and can't consistently access healthcare and mental health treatment. It takes time and resources like insurance and transportation. Many times, individuals will feel they have no options beyond emergency care, which doesn't allow for underlying concerns to be addressed as would be covered in a PCP or counseling appointment." One way you can help is by learning about the pervasive health issues among the homeless and understanding what you can do.
It is very common for people experiencing homelessness to fall ill as they are exposed to increased stress, have unstable sources for food, and stay in unsanitary living conditions – all with limited access to healthcare. Here are the common ailments for those experiencing homelessness:
Wounds and Skin Infections
This can happen to people who have no homes because they are often outdoors and exposed to the elements. In turn, this leaves them vulnerable to wounds which can lead to infections if not cleaned and treated properly.
When someone is homeless, they might not have a steady source of food. This can lead to them not eating enough or having access to food with enough nutrients to keep them healthy. That is why they are more susceptible to malnutrition. This problem can lead to more (chronic) health issues, such as liver disease, heart disease, and secondary malnutrition in the long run if not addressed.
People experiencing homelessness who contract hepatitis tend to struggle to get the right treatment. "Hepatitis C cases occur consistently in our population. Lack of access to testing can often lead to positive cases going untreated. Individuals with hepatitis C can develop cirrhosis or scarring of the liver over time. As a part of our intake, we screen for Hepatitis C and connect anyone with a positive test to Central Outreach for treatment. This partnership also provides us with the testing supplies for HIB testing," Dietrich says. The CDC also recommends greater access to vaccines to control hepatitis from spreading.
Mental Health Problems
Homelessness can also cause extreme stress, trauma, anxiety, and depression. These are serious mental conditions that, if not tended to, can cause physical manifestations. Another way mental health struggles are apparent in those who experience homelessness is when substance abuse enters the equation. Dietrich explained how addiction can develop in our residents: "Self-medication often occurs unintentionally as substances seem to take pain away or give a leveling-out effect, and then the addiction takes off. Other times, our residents are introduced to medications that become habit-forming after surgery, and then the addiction grows." In many cases, seeking psychiatric care might be difficult due to reasons like cost, stigma, and inaccessibility.
How You Can Help
Community lawyer Diane O'Connell says that donations allow the homeless to maintain their autonomy, and that providing them with living essentials preserves their dignity. Because people experiencing homelessness often lack a steady source of income, they may not be able to acquire essentials like food, clothes, or medicine. Being able to supply these basic needs may be able to tide them through tough times. These donations may seem like a simple act, but they make a huge difference, especially since the transportation to acquire such resources may be difficult to find.
Connect them to a Medical Professional
Being able to give medical care to the homeless is another way you can assist them. Though healthcare can be expensive, some places and people offer their services pro bono or at discounted rates. There are many resources on the internet to be able to find these services too. Most people who experience homelessness can gain access to the internet via community resources such as libraries, shelters, and charities. They can go online and contact these health professionals found by you. Online, they can consult with nurses with doctorate degrees who are specially trained in advanced medical issues. More importantly, these nurses have adequate public health experience, so they not only treat ailments at a surface level but also address the health implications of homelessness. Similarly, they can also consult with a charity physician if their sickness requires more complicated treatments like surgery. In order to help them, you will have to set up the online meeting and guide them through it. But by simply giving them the chance to speak to a medical professional you will be offering a great service.
Specifically, people who are homeless can get in touch with Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC). Dietrich highlights how these centers are "federally funded to allow for an access point for the uninsured and underinsured in the community. They serve as a bridge for the homeless and other underserved individuals to the healthcare system. Because of the transient nature of the homeless, medical providers can become frustrated with the lack of follow-up from the patient, but FQHCs and their providers are more flexible and understanding. Our relationship with Centerville Clinics has allowed our residents to build their comfort with medical providers and discover and address underlying conditions in a safe environment."
Doing Volunteer Work
If you are looking for ways to be proactive in helping those who are homeless, volunteering is a great way to do so. You can volunteer for organizations like City Mission whose main goal is to care for homeless people as they aim to make a real difference in their lives. These organizations may do different things like offer shelter, have soup kitchens, and hold fundraisers intended to help those in need. By joining, you can assist them in these charitable efforts and initiatives in your community.
Helping out those who are affected by homelessness is extremely important and necessary. These are people whose circumstances may be dire and the little bit of assistance you give can go a long way.
Written exclusively for citymission.org
Written by Jessie Calix
opportunities to serve your community.
Finding Ways to Help
Finding Ways to Help Although rising Covid numbers in our area along with some positive cases among our staff and resident population have caused us to temporarily close our Warming Center and Cold Weather Shelter, we are still finding ways to help those in need during these, cold, winter months. "No one is going to get turned away," said City Mission President/CEO, Dean Gartland. “We’re working diligently to keep people safe and warm.” For those in need of emergency shelter in the cold weather, we work to find alternative solutions. We refer them to county agencies and other shelters, make phone calls on their behalf, purchase bus tickets, and offer transportation for those we cannot keep in our shelters overnight. We also contact other local agencies who may be able to help, and when necessary, we secure hotel rooms for those in need until a long-term solution can be found. “But if it’s the end of the day, or the weekend, and they can’t connect with the county resources, we are the people who bridge that gap,” said Gartland. In addition to these resources, we also offer hot meals, warm clothes, blankets, toiletries, canned food, and possibly even medical care to those who come to us for help. The safety of everyone in the community is our top priority, and we are working hard to help those in need while also doing our very best to keep staff, residents, volunteers, and the community healthy and safe. “Unfortunately, the cold weather came at the same time Covid is spiking,” said Gartland. “But we’re still going to make sure that everyone’s needs are met.” If you or anyone you know need help to stay out of the cold this winter, please continue to reach out to us at 724-222-8530. We are here to help during this difficult time.
"A Firm Place to Stand"
On Monday at City Mission’s weekly chapel service, Chief Operating Officer, Brian Johansson, paid tribute to the twentieth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center first by honoring the veterans in our residential program who have faithfully served to protect our nation and then by telling the story of his own personal encounters in New York City on that day. On September 11, 2001, Johansson was the Director of the Bowery Mission, the third oldest Christian rescue mission in the US, just 10 blocks from the site of the World Trade Center. He was commuting to work that day, but the subways stopped running, all the bridges into the city shut down, and the traffic backed up for miles. Determined to help during the crisis, he found a place to park his car, and he walked over the 59th Street Bridge from Queens into the city while most New Yorkers were scrambling to get out. It took him nearly 4 hours to walk to work through all the chaos in the aftermath of the attack. When he finally made it to the Bowery that day, there were 50 people, covered in dirt, praying and crying inside the Mission’s historic chapel. He and the staff at the Bowery Mission ministered to and prayed with the victims, survivors, and the loved ones of those who were lost. Johansson, a native New Yorker, grew up the son of a pastor in a blue-collar neighborhood, playing stickball in the street with his friends. “We played stickball games where the manhole cover was first base,” he said, recalling those times in his life for the Mission’s residents and staff. “The Twin Towers were part of my childhood,” he added. “I saw them every day.” Many of those friends he played stickball with grew up to be New York City policemen and fire fighters who have their own firsthand accounts of that day. But Johansson’s story is a little different. He dreamed of becoming a New York City police officer, and after college, he even applied for entrance into the academy, but around that same time, he and his wife, Peggy, began to feel a calling to help the homeless. Every Wednesday, they would pack up some food and drive around New York City ministering to the street homeless. “In 1992, I got a letter of acceptance into the police academy – something I had been dreaming about ever since I was a kid,” Johansson remembered. But that very same week, he also received a letter from the Bowery Mission asking him to be the Director of their Transitional Center, which offers transitional housing for men who have graduated the Mission’s residential recovery program. After much prayer and soul-searching, he decided to follow God’s calling to serve the homeless at the Bowery Mission. By September of 2001, he had been promoted to the Director of the Bowery Mission, the position he held at the time of the attacks. In addition to his duties as the Director of the Mission, Johansson also volunteered as a New York state chaplain, a role he performed for 15 years. As a chaplain, he helped at both Ground Zero and the Park Avenue Armory. At the Armory, he prayed with families who desperately waited for news of their missing loved ones as the search for victims continued. Johansson recalled the despair and confusion of those days just after the attack. “Where there once was a straight and square building, there was now nothing but chaos and rubble. When you were standing at Ground Zero, you couldn’t tell east from west or north from south or up from down.” But he also remembered a message of hope from Psalm 40 that helped bring peace to many grieving families in the midst of all that chaos and suffering. “I cried out to the Lord, and He heard my cry. He lifted me out of the miry pit and set my feet on a rock. He gave me a firm place to stand.” And he encouraged the staff and residents of City Mission with that same passage. “We’ve all had little 9/11’s in our own lives,” he said. “We’ve all had tragedies, challenges, difficulties – whether it’s losing a loved one or struggling with addiction. We’ve all had something. Our response in those situations must be to draw nearer to God. It’s an opportunity for us to come to know Him more deeply. Don’t miss that opportunity.” “You may be in the midst of it right now,” he added. “You can’t tell left from right or up from down. The glass is broken all around. The beams are melting. Your world is turned upside-down. But if you just cry out to God. He will hear your prayer.” There are men, women, children, and veterans at City Mission right now who are hurting. Find out what you can do to help them today at www.citymission.org.
Legal Systems Support Services - Learn more
Learn more about getting legal help from Southwestern PA Legal Aid:
PTSD Awareness Story
A symptom of PTSD known as hyper-vigilance makes combat veterans feel constantly on edge or “keyed-up.” Many who suffer from PTSD have difficulty relaxing and enjoying everyday life. They struggle to sleep, so they are always exhausted, and they have difficulty maintaining work performance or building relationships.
“Keep Looking Forward”
“I love working at the Mission,” smiled Denny Kennedy, City Mission’s new Chief Financial Officer, who was hired back in late February. “It’s nice to be around people who have a passion for what they do. How could you not be inspired?”
City Mission Launches New Website
We have completely redesigned our website with you in mind - streamlining menus, simplifying navigation, and building a responsive layout across all platforms and browsers. We have also improved the structure and are increasing the volume of City Mission’s content.
City Mission Thrift Stores Reopen
City Mission Thrift Stores were closed for retail shopping for over two months during the COVID quarantine, but they never completely closed during that time. All of City Mission’s seven thrift stores remained open to accept donations, and five of them were used as Pop-up Pantry sites to distribute food bags to those in need during the crisis. The Pop-up Pantry program gave away over 4,000 bags of food in eight weeks.
We’re All In This Together
These are fearful times, and a homeless shelter is probably the last place you’d choose to hunker down at a time like this. But the residents at City Mission are responding to this crisis with remarkable patience, compassion, and togetherness.“They are adapting to this challenging situation and doing so with a smile,” explained Leah Dietrich, City Mission’s Director of Residential Programs. “That is such a blessing. I’m proud of them for their response and impressed with all that they are acc
Happy Earth Day, Everyday at City Mission
When you donate to our City Mission Thrift Stores, your donation makes a far bigger impact than you might think. Whether you are looking to be kind to the planet this Earth Day or to help those in need in our community, donating your unwanted items to City Mission helps to make the world a better place, one small act at a time.
Stay at Home-School at City Mission is Working!
Just like you, our Women with Children Shelter families are staying home to learn. Our staff have created a structured, quiet, school room environment using our CTEC classrooms for our school age kids who study with their moms by their side. Our childcare center has been rearranged into a Head Start classroom where pre-school age children can learn together.
Operation Face Mask Protects City Mission Residents
When City Mission staffer Sue Gartland called professional quilter Melanie Scott to ask if the Martha Washington Quilter’s Guild could make masks for City Mission residents, she answered yes without hesitation. “I was just sitting around home like everyone else, watching the news and feeling depressed,” she reported. “But I kept thinking about our healthcare
City Mission and Citizens Library Partner to Build a Better Community
City Mission is working with the Citizens Library to expand the resources available to help restore its residents to sustainable, independent living. The collaboration is a natural one. “Our primary goal is to help prepare people for life outside these four walls,” said Steve Nicholas, the City Mission Director of Career Training and Education. “Partnering
Pop-Up Pantries in Four Locations
As there are many individuals who are experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 business closures, City Mission is coordinating Pop-Up Pantries for anyone in need at four different locations across Washington County. Depending on the quantities of supplies secured and the extent of the virus’ impact, City Mission intends to host the pantries for three to four weeks. Each pantry client will receive a bag of groceries featuring non-perishable food items and paper products.
City Mission Still Open and Helping Homeless and Community
Dear Friends,Thank you for your continued support of City Mission. With all that is going on today, we need you now more than ever. As a valued partner providing to those in need, we want to make sure we share the latest of what is being done, especially regarding the Coronavirus. You may have seen in our recent communications, City Mission is taking precautions to protect our vulnerable population of residents and to help mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus.
Tips for De-Cluttering
Spring is only a week away, and as the temperature warms, many people are motivated to embark on annual spring-cleaning rituals. After several months of living with doors and windows closed, both dust and possessions have accumulated in our homes, and now is the perfect time to try to reduce both. Along with the typical spring-cleaning tasks, such as having rugs and draperies cleaned, laundering mattress covers and pillows, and clearing out unwanted items from closets, you might also consider the following clutter culprits as prime targets for removal during your cleanup.
Tax Strategies to Benefit both Donor and City Mission
If you are a high-income senior citizen who donates to City Mission, are you taking advantage of a great tax loophole to maximize your gift? Clients across the country are using this strategy to enhance their charitable giving, especially since the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act practically eliminated the need to itemize.As you know, once you have hit the "magic age" of 70 and 1/2, the IRS requires that you take a required minimum distribution on your IRA annually.
It's Time to de-Clutter and Donate!
Are you looking for a place to donate clothing to? Look no further! City Mission Thrift Store will take your clothing donations! You can drop your items off at any one of our seven Store Locations or in one of our City Mission Donation Bins in an area near you. Your Donations Help Change Lives!
“Such a Blessing”
“Our goal is to help people manage their pain,” said Cyndi Urbanowicz, a retired flight nurse and one of the medical volunteers at the clinic. “Unfortunately, most of the residents we see have chronic pain. We’re helping to decrease their pain and other symptoms.” Sadly, the need for a drug-free pain management clinic like the one at City Mission is overwhelming. More than 30% of all Americans have some form of acute or chronic pain, and pain-relieving opioids are now the most commonly-prescribed class of medications in the United States.
City Mission to Hold Expungement Day
The Legal Clinic at the City Mission in Washington, Pa., as well as Southwestern Pennsylvania Legal Services and the Washington County Bar Association, are coming together Friday, March 29, to host a free criminal expungement clinic for residents of the City Mission homeless shelter and income-eligible members of the public. The “Expungement Day” program will take place at the City Mission from 9 a.m. to noon. The Mission is located at 84 West Wheeling Street in Washington.
City Mission Lends A Hand to Government Employees
Over 800,000 workers and their families across the US are currently being affected by the Federal Government shutdown. No paycheck means no money for mortgage payments, groceries, or household items. City Mission has recently introduced a 'Show Your Government ID Program' for furloughed or out-of-work federal government employees in Southwestern PA. This program will continue for the duration of the shutdown. Just show your government ID at City Mission, 84 West Wheeling Street, Washington PA , for you and your family to receive:
City Mission Celebrates Grand Opening of Women with Children Shelter
Families with children are the fastest-growing homeless population in the US. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 41% of the homeless population is comprised of families, and 84% of these families are headed by single women. That is why City Mission has expanded their Women with Children Shelter, doubling their capacity to house women and children in need.
Twelve Steps & Biblical Comparisons
Did you know that each day, more than 700,000 people seek treatment for addiction? During the month of September, we celebrate with our program residents and the 23 million people in recovery who have made the brave decision to start their journey toward healing and renewal.At City Mission we offer Biblically-Based-counseling to the men and women participating in our Life Recovery Programs.
How Can I Help the Homeless?
Excerpt from Union Gospel Mission webpage - "How to Help People who are Experiencing Homelessness" 1. Give them food, coupons, or gift certificates, or refer them to a local social service agency. If a person is hungry, offer him/her food, coupons, or gift certificates to nearby restaurants or grocery stores. Or refer him/her to an agency that can provide food and shelter such as a local soup kitchen. Never give out cash. The money you give to “help” that person could be used to buy drugs or alcohol instead.
Recently a resident of City Mission's Life Recovery Program faced the reality of addiction in a letter: To my addiction: Today I realize for the first time with total clarity the damage you’ve done and the intention you have for me. You plan to keep me in bondage to failure, loss, hopelessness and misery, to finish me off in the ultimate bondage of death. For so long you have managed to convince me not to fight for more than anything you allow.
National Vietnam War Veterans Day
Today is National Vietnam War Veterans Day. Our nation stops to remember our servicemen and women who served in the Vietnam War. As a nation, we didn’t do our part in welcoming home these war veterans from a conflict that continues to haunt so many of them.