Challenge grant helps Fourth Street Clinic meet health needs of growing homeless population

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 28 2012 7:13 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — There was a time when Vaughn Davis made jokes at the expense of homeless people and the agencies that served them.

"Little did I know that would be part of my future," said Davis, who is from Salt Lake City.

Davis joined the ranks of the homeless six years ago, after being displaced from a home on the Avenues.

Sick and homeless, Davis became a client of Fourth Street Clinic, the state's nonprofit health care provider for homeless Utahns. He also sought the assistance of the The Road Home emergency shelter.

Davis' road to recovery, he says, "all started with me being introduced to the Fourth Street Clinic."

Now living in permanent supportive housing, Davis is chairman of the clinic's consumer advisory board. He reaches out to other homeless people to help them learn about the clinic's services.

"I never thought I'd get to this point. I owe so much to clinic," he said.

From Dec. 1-10, Utahns can help support the efforts of the comprehensive health care home that serves 3,800 homeless men, women and children a year by contributing to its Give One Raise Two Challenge Grant.

Six donors have agreed to match donations up to $50,000, meaning a $25 contribution would become a $50 donation because the donors' match.

The clinic was founded in 1988 as a triage operation staffed by one part-time nurse who relied heavily on area hospitals for treatment.

Nearly 15 years later, a staff of 45 health care professions and support provide integrated primary care, behavioral health, pharmacy and case management services. Those efforts are assisted by a volunteer network of 150 people. The clinic serves about 100 people a day.

The clinic receives federal funding, some state and county funds, and grants from private foundations. Only 6 percent of its funding comes from Medicaid, even though an estimated 30 percent of clients may be eligible for the program.

Many patients lack the documentation they need to complete the application process. The clinic relies on the support of the community to fund much of its services, including free vaccinations.

Fourth Street Clinic staff also delivers health care services to clients living on the streets through its outreach team. Clients include families with young children, seniors and homeless teens.

"The number of people living in City Creek and behind the Capitol is astounding," said Dr. Christina Gallop, medical director of Fourth Street Clinic.

Clinic CEO Kristy Chambers said even during the recession, the community has stepped up to help direct-service nonprofit organizations.

But the clinic has been pinched by growing demand, particularly families. To accommodate growing demand for shelter, The Road Home opened its overflow shelter in Midvale on Oct. 1, its earliest seasonal opening. The clinic is stretching its resources to meet the increased need.

Salt Lake City's 10-year plan to house the chronically homeless in supportive housing is aiding the clinic's efforts, however. Patients are more likely to follow their health care providers' orders and take prescriptions as directed if they have a roof over their heads, Chambers said.

"Our job now is to do more to address those who are episodically homeless before they become the chronic homeless," she said.

Davis said he's living proof that permanent supportive housing, case management and comprehensive primary care can save a life.

"Otherwise, I'd probably be dead," he said.

To give to the Give One Raise Two Challenge Grant, visit fourthstreetclinic.org or send contributions to Fourth Street Clinic, 404 S. 400 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84101.

E-mail: marjorie@desnews.com

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