By Rebecca Morales
Did you know that the average homeless person in the United States costs their local community $48,000 over the course of their life?
Of course, that money is going to save and improve a life, which is vitally important. However, what if there were ways to stabilize a person’s life – home provided, food to eat, life skills taught, jobs earned, emotional support – that were not only life-changing for the individual, but provided a positive financial impact for the community?
Jim Hornsby, director of Feed My Sheep, explains that most homeless individuals are ninety-day wonders. They work someplace for ninety days, they live someplace for ninety days. Then ultimately, after ninety days they are back at the door needing additional assistance. Often times, individuals who receive a tax-refund use that money to upgrade their living situation, only to find that ninety days later they do not have the means to support that change.
The largest contributing factor in the cost to the community is the accumulation of medical bills from repeated emergency room visits. Therefore, when an organization like Feed My Sheep takes steps to keep the homeless cared for and out of the emergency rooms they generate a cost savings of $1,500 per ER visit. One way Feed My Sheep limits ER visits is by reuniting individuals with their families or supportive friends that in-turn help meet the needs of that individual. For the price of some communication and a bus ticket, connecting a homeless individual back to their family saves the community an average of $2,500.
The chart below lists various cost savings.
Feed My Sheep tailors their action steps to people’s specific needs. The goal is to give a hand-up, not just a handout. They accomplish this by providing education in the areas of finance and life skills.
Changing a life changes the community.
In October of 2015 Feed My Sheep Director Jim Hornsby and Baylor Scott and White Pediatric Endocrinologist and Pediatric Residency Director Dr. Steven Ponder held the very first Feed My Sheep pediatric free clinic. They had realized that there was immense need for such a clinic in the community, especially because Texas has more uninsured children than anywhere else in the country. Shockingly, the Feed My Sheep clinic is one of only two free clinics in the state that is specifically geared towards serving children.
Since that time, the clinic has grown and expanded to cover children across Bell County. Thanks to partnerships with local community centers, the free clinic travels to locations across the area. The clinic is typically held every third weekend of the month, but it adjusts to fit holiday schedules. This month’s clinic will be held on Feb. 16 at The Jesus Hope and Love Mission in Killeen. The clinic runs from 9:30 AM until Noon. The clinic does not ask for any monetary contribution from the families it serves, nor does it require any kind of documentation to provide services.
While the free clinic is not intended to replace an urgent care center or emergency room, acute health issues are treated. Doctors have over the counter and limited prescription drugs on hand. In addition, the clinic serves as a one stop shop for medical screenings, including vision and hearing screenings year-round, and school and sports physicals in the summer. Children who are identified as needing further care are given referrals to doctors in the community. They are also identified for a Lion’s Club program that provides free glasses.
In addition, a pediatric dentist is on hand as well as dental hygienists to teach children proper dental hygiene. Families are given backpacks full of health and hygiene supplies to help implement these lessons. A pediatric podiatrist and dermatologist are also available to address those needs. Recently, a physical and occupational therapist have joined the team and are able to provide screenings and referrals for their services.
The family and internal medicine residents from the Baylor Scott and White residency program provide well child exams and present their findings to onsite faculty. Meanwhile, med students from Texas A&M medical school serve as “care shepherds” to ensure that every child meets with every specialist and serve as a liaison between parents and care providers to help explain anything that needs additional clarification. Nursing students from the University of Mary Hardin Baylor provide nursing services. Though they earn required service hours through their work at the clinic, many students stay on long afterwards because they find the work so meaningful and fulfilling.
After meeting with the medical providers, families meet with Feed My Sheep volunteers at the resources station. Here they are given all their follow up information, pick up any required prescriptions, and are given health care packages. Perhaps most importantly, the resources station is also where families are given assistance in getting enrolled or re-enrolled in free children’s health insurance programs so that they can receive more consistent care in the future. The Clinic’s goal is to get children and families on a path to sustained wellness, and the resources station is a critical part of that mission.
After a long day of medical care, families enjoy a small petting zoo. These children may be experiencing unimaginable hardships, but every part of the clinic is designed to minimize anxiety and provide a safe, caring environment to aid in healing.
The clinic is completely reliant upon volunteers, and expanding its services relies on expanding the network of volunteer providers. If you are interested in volunteering with the Feed My Sheep Free Clinic in any capacity, please email the volunteer program director Deb Rosenberger at firstname.lastname@example.org for an application and background check information. There is immense medical need within Bell County and volunteering with Feed My Sheep is a wonderful way to give back to your local community.
On the third Thursday of every month, Brandon Waters and his team at Central County Services – Mobile Crisis Outreach Team (MCOT), partner with Feed My Sheep (FMS) to provide mental health care to those in crisis.
Mr. Waters identifies that there are limitations and barriers separating those with mental health issues from the help they need. Those who need assistance the most lack transportation, means, proper support, housing, basic necessities – pushing the desire for mental health services to the bottom of their concerns list. Because FMS works with homeless individuals, a portion of who suffer from mental illness, having MCOT onsite provides a unique opportunity. Once individuals in need have been fed, took a shower, laundered clothes, and have been helped with various social services, the door is now open for them to address the deeper issues that may be the source of their current state. An accessible one-stop-shop is the key.
Before going to school to become a therapist, Mr. Waters was an EMT. During this time he discovered his passion for helping those in crisis, especially those with addictions. He is grateful for the opportunity to intervene and alleviate a person’s turmoil. Mr. Waters feels that we need to treat the whole person, not just the mental illness. For example, if we help someone overcome a drug addiction, but then he is released back onto the street, surrounded by the same people, as before, and with no income, he will end up back at the starting line. Additionally, he believes we should be focused on setting these individuals up with jobs, housing and teaching them life skills. FMS approaches the individuals they serve with the same holistic approach.
Ultimately, MCOT is designed to “provide resources to those without resources.” This mobile unit comes to the person in crisis and stays with them until they are stabilized. They chose to treat mental illness on the spot by going to an individuals home and even bringing them to needed appointments. Making sure people are stabilized with their basic needs met prevents unnecessary visits to the emergency room.
The road to providing the best mental healthcare is winding. There are still additional needs – funding, some type of shelters (for men especially), and healthcare providers that are willing to give their time to such an important cause.
However, with a partnership like the one between MCOT and FMS we are taking the turns more smoothly. Mental illness is often overlooked or swept under the rug because there are so many hurdles. Together we can knock down the barriers and give hope to a hurting population.
*Those looking for immediate help can call the MCOT 24-hour crisis hotline toll free: 1-800-888-4036.
If you have been to the Feed My Sheep offices, you may have heard mention of a “Triage Day”. When I first started volunteering, I must admit, I was completely confused as to what this might refer to. What exactly is a triage day? What is it supposed to do? Who’s involved? Hopefully, this article will explain this often-misunderstood event.
Connecting individuals to services is a critical component of the Feed My Sheep mission. However, transportation challenges, lack of childcare, and financial barriers can make it hard for people to access these vital programs. That’s where Triage Day comes in! Every other month on the third Tuesday, service agencies come together at 116 W. Ave G in Temple to allow clients to get many needs met all at one time.
Feed My Sheep clients are a diverse group with their own unique needs. Triage Day recognizes these needs by including a wide range of service providers. Clients can manage everything from banking to housing to mental health support all in one place at one time.
Individuals looking for help with housing meet with Jamielynn Schweigert, an application intake specialist with Central Texas Housing Consortium. CTHC provides public housing that is income based but never more than 30% of a client’s total income. Rent is adjusted based on income and circumstances and the program considers loss and change of employment when determining monthly rent. In addition to public housing, CTHC has Income Qualifying properties across the area. To qualify for one of these properties, the individual must have an income of three times the determined monthly rent.
Clients seeking medical care have several options at Triage Day! Caroline Mccall, a Patient Navigator Bell County Indigent Healthcare, is on hand to direct people to their Medical Coverage plan. This plan is for people from age 18 until they qualify for Elder Care who are unable to obtain coverage through any other program such as SSI or Medicaid/Medicare. This program allows people to visit hospitals and doctors of their choice and allows up to three prescriptions a month with no copays. Everything is at no cost! They also help with dental and vision care. Clients with chronic conditions, such as asthma, mental illnesses, and heart conditions, who enrolled in the Medical Coverage can enter the Navigaton program for help working towards their health goals. This program includes a 30 day follow up after the initial medical visit to see how the individual is doing with their goals. For those who qualify for Medicare, Dametrus Lane from Scott and White Healthcare is available to explain upcoming changes to the S&W Medicare Advantage program and to help with annual enrollment. She can also answer any questions about Medicare and how Medicare works with the S&W Advantage plan.
Bill Barker from Bringing Everyone in The Zone mans a table offering free hygiene packs. His organization offers peer to peer counselling and peer to peer groups for veterans and their families. There are weekly meetings across Bell County and they offer financial assistance when funds are available. The group was started with three veterans in 2009 and works with Bell County Veterans Treatment Corps.
After a long day of meetings, First Convenience Bank is a welcome sight with their inviting snack table. For any individual, a bank account represents stability and ease of access to funds. It is an important step for people working toward getting back on their feet. FCB is available to answer any banking questions that a client may have. Clients can set up their new bank accounts onsite by filling out the required paperwork. Then, when the client has their ID and documentation ready, they can go to the banking locations in the HEB on Adams or the 31st St. Wal-Mart. There they get their photos taken, receive their debit cards, and make and initial deposit.
Finally, Erika Mendoza from Lonestar Legal Aid -Belton is available to discuss free legal services. They help with everything but criminal or fee generated cases. Typical services include family law cases, veteran benefits, and public benefits. Mendoza finds fulfillment in “making a difference in someone’s life” and says that helping with hospice cases and protective orders have been some of the most important.
In addition to these groups, Families in Crisis, Canikor- Drug and Alcohol, Center of Hope – Salvation Army, Central TX Youth Services, Christian Women’s Job Corps, First Atlantic Healthcare, Liberty Insurance, and Lane Insurance Brokerage are also often in attendance. Triage Day provides a way for families and individuals in crisis to meet with multiple organizations all under one roof. This is a huge blessing for the people Feed My Sheep serves and maximizes the impact on their day to day lives. If your organization can offer hope and help to the clients of Feed My Sheep and would like to partner with us for an upcoming Triage Day, please contact Jim at email@example.com.