Baptist and Christ Community Health Services Give Back to the Homeless

Dec 15 • 2017

Baptist Operation Outreach and Christ Community Health Services came together with one shared goal—to help the homeless. When the two organizations first joined, Baptist Memorial Health Care had a center for the homeless by their downtown hospital. It was stationary, which posed a problem for many of the homeless in the community. They often struggled to find transportation to the clinic.

“That’s the difficulty many of our homeless patients have—transportation, getting around, knowing where we are and what we’re doing,” said Janice Taylor, program director for Christ Community Health Services.

A mobile van helped solve this problem.

A Health Care Clinic on Wheels

“We talked about the partnership and decided to develop taking the care to the homeless in 2003,” said Janice Taylor, program director for Christ Community Health Services. “We evolved that program to what we have now, which is going to multiple places in the community. We take the van to highly populated homeless areas, including shelters and churches. The first year, we saw about 492 visits—now, we usually have 2,000-plus visits.”

Patients who visit the mobile van have access to a physician, nurse practitioner, social worker, spiritual team and behavioral health doctor. These experts can answer any questions patients may have.

“What we’re doing is offering a [complete] round of services and having things for them on site,” said Taylor.

Patients can get help filling out paperwork, finding housing, learning about what resources are available to them in the community and where to find hot meals and more. The staff also can help with getting vision care, prescriptions filled and dental services. Through partnerships with Davis Vision, patients can even get free eyeglasses.

“If they are having trouble with legal issues, we can even connect them with the legal department for free services,” said Taylor.

“Whatever their need is, we have those resources on site every day. We can offer prayer and comfort, counseling, and assistance with depression and anxiety.”

Tree of Faith, Hope & Love

Another aspect of Baptist Operation Outreach is the annual Tree of Faith, Hope & Love event. This special event allows the Baptist family and Mid-South community to give back to the homeless during the holiday season. During the event, homeless patients receive gift items and a warm meal.

“We’ve had this event for several years—it’s a great way to get employees involved in volunteering and donating different items,” said Taylor. “Every year, we purchase about 300 backpacks and take the items we collected in clinics and from employees and put them into the backpacks.”

Volunteers stuff the bags at a Gift Bag Packing Party the day before the event. Backpacks are filled with everything from hygiene products to thermal underwear, hats, gloves and other cold weather items. The backpacks are then distributed at the event, where volunteers will help serve all attendees a warm meal.

“We’ll also have the choir there singing while they enjoy the meal, and provide the homeless with an opportunity to fill out Christmas cards,” said Taylor. “They may want to send one to a family member or someone they want to get in touch with. And we make that happen by mailing it for them.”

The 2017 event was held on Dec. 14.

Get Involved and Give Back

While it can be difficult for the community to get involved when providing medical services, the Tree of Faith, Hope & Love event opens up an opportunity for volunteers to help by donating items or money. Anyone who would like can donate items for the homeless or give to Operation Outreach.

“We’ve done this for nine years now, and each year it gets bigger and bigger,” said Taylor. “The patients look forward to it—they start asking about it in October. They look forward to being able to sit down and talk and be treated more special that day because of the holidays.”

Visit our website to learn more about Operation Outreach and how you can support this cause.