- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
For those most in need in Charles County, help often seems impossible to reach.
For a few hours Wednesday, area organizations dedicated to service gathered in one place, putting aid right at hand.
The biannual Homeless Resource Day, sponsored by the Charles County Homeless and Emergency Shelter Committee, was held at the Health Partners clinic in Waldorf. Health Partners Executive Director Chrisie Mulcahey said that since the program was first held, the amount of participating organizations in the community has grown so much that they have had to use part of the neighboring Jaycees center to accompany the overflow of resources.
Thirty-six organizations provided services from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and lunch was provided. Those who came to reap the benefits of the services provided were led around the premises by volunteers, who guided people in the right direction and kept them company as they went to the groups’ booths.
United Way of Charles County Executive Director Dottie Harper said 137 volunteers registered and about 78 worked.
College of Southern Maryland professor Debbie Wilson, who was coordinating registration for people seeking service, said that by around noon, 96 men, women and children had been served, and she anticipated more.
Wilson has helped out at each Homeless Resource Day for the past two years and as a part of her classes, requires her students to complete community service hours. She said she sees the day as an important service and just one of many ways to give back to the community.
“It’s just giving back, helping, giving love, giving someone a smile,” Wilson said. “We can learn about this in a classroom, you know, read about it in books ... but this is real life. It’s an everyday commitment for me. If we don’t share our riches, then what good are they?”
Despite facing challenges in funding and maintaining a staff large enough to provide proper continuity of care and be able to see new patients, Mulcahey said the mission and importance of Health Partners in the community has remained the same.
“We’ve seen people here go from homeless to owning their own cars, their own apartments,” Mulcahey said. “All it takes is people who care and are willing to listen.”
On Wednesday, Health Partners offered the men, women and children who signed up free dental examinations, breast exams and other services. Nurse practitioner Jamie Reidy, who provided the breast exams, said that through these free services, they have been able to diagnose multiple cases of breast cancer.
“The problem with Southern Maryland is there’s an 87 percent shortage of healthcare providers, and we’re growing faster than we can keep up with it,” Reidy said. “There’s a huge need for these services.”
In the lobby of the Health Partners clinic, LifeStyles of Maryland Support Services Director Corae Young said, the group was registering people for the overnight shelter portion of the Safe Nights program, set to open for the season Nov. 1.
“We’ve had a pretty steady stream of people all day registering for that and for emergency services,” Young said.
Although Safe Nights only operates the shelter component through the winter months, Young said the program has other features that operate year-round, despite common misconceptions.
“Even when we don’t have the shelter, we still serve,” Young said. “Safe Nights is a united response from the community. We act the rest of the year as a sort of concierge service for homeless people. ... They can use our address to receive mail, among many other things. It’s not just for winter.”
Young said that although LifeStyles would like to make the Safe Nights program year-round, funding to make that possible is an issue.
None of the homeless people at the event agreed to talk to a reporter.