Healthcare for the Homeless, Right Where They Are

October 26, 2018

Social work majors (l-r) Jadayia Jordan, Nesi Ikote, Rachel Boone, and Claudine Katete at the Valley Mission, preparing to assist getting the homeless access to the medical care and resources they need.

Privacy screens went up in the chapel. Staff from Augusta Health prepared first-aid and screening stations. MBU social work majors got ready to help connect people to community resources. This was the scene at Staunton’s Valley Mission last Wednesday as staff, volunteers, and healthcare professionals worked to bring medical care and education directly to the homeless.

Augusta Health’s Healthcare for the Homeless initiative provides free medical services weekly at local shelters in Staunton and Waynesboro, including screenings and education for diabetes, hypertension, and mental health, as well as administering flu vaccines and basic first aid.   

Social work majors Rachel Boone, Nesi Ikote, Jadayia Jordan, and Claudine Katete, all juniors, were on hand to help people sign up for these on-site services and arrange additional medical care if needed. They studied maps of local bus routes, so they could give clients the correct amount of tokens and show them how to get to the free clinic in Fishersville for follow-up appointments.

“The people that are here are some of the kindest people I’ve met,” said Boone, about her introduction to the Valley Mission’s work. “I’m looking forward to continuing to volunteer here.”

Social work majors (l-r) Jadayia Jordan, Nesi Ikote, Rachel Boone, and Claudine Katete at the Valley Mission, preparing to assist getting the homeless access to the medical care and resources they need.

Working with vulnerable populations in a shelter and partnering with two local service providers like Augusta Health and the Valley Mission are ideal hands-on experiences for these future social workers. The students’ field work is part of their Social Work Practice I class.

“Case management is entry-level social work at its best,” said Associate Professor of Social Work Mary Clay Thomas. “This will be their first experience in that area, and it will also help them narrow down what they want to do in their final field placement for the major.”

Thomas is in the planning process of launching a new emphasis in medical social work within the social work major, drawing upon the strengths of both the main campus and MBU’s Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences (MDCHS). She hopes students will be able to take classes at MDCHS and utilize the university’s strong healthcare connections to the local community for their final field placements.