A 52-year-old man held out a hand while a young medical student applied pressure — the man lost a plastic cast a week ago, he explained, and he was supposed to see an orthopedic specialist. But …
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This story is part of Colorado Community Media's third and final installment in a series, “No Place to Call Home,” which explores the reasons behind the rise in homelessness in Englewood and the response from various segments of the community..
To read more on how school districts, nonprofits and city governments are responding — and to see the first two installments of the series — click here.
A 52-year-old man held out a hand while a young medical student applied pressure — the man lost a plastic cast a week ago, he explained, and he was supposed to see an orthopedic specialist.
But this would have to do: A makeshift clinic — on any other day, a laundry room — in a basement at a church on a modest block in Englewood. It’s free, and it doesn’t cover all kinds of medical care. But for dozens, every two weeks, it’s salvation.
“I’ve got a broken hand, broken elbow,” said the man, who goes by Danny, on a day in mid-March.
Danny is among the low-income individuals and those experiencing homelessness who have come to Wellness at the Well, Wellspring Anglican Church’s twice-monthly food pantry and clinic program, to get free food and care.
Most of the handful of people who run Wellness at the Well are medical student volunteers, said David Malouf, the clinic’s volunteer coordinator. A key area of focus are the well-worn feet of the homeless population.
They often have ailing feet because “a lot of these folks never take off their shoes,” Malouf, 47, said. “We wash their feet, do toe(nail)-trimming, go after callouses, ingrown toenails, use medicated lotions.
“And then we just talk,” Malouf said, and “treat them like humans.”
The church at 4300 S. Lincoln St. is one in a patchwork of resources that keeps homeless individuals afloat in the south metro area. Just down the street and a block west, Giving Heart, a faith-minded services center, offers a hot meal and a place to belong. The nonprofit Severe Weather Shelter Network works to shelter homeless individuals in cold conditions at local churches in Jefferson County and the Littleton-Englewood area. And Englewood police, in a partnership with AllHealth Network, a south-metro behavioral health service provider, can connect people in crisis to mental health help.
They all add up to Change the Trend Network, a community coalition that’s bringing results for a small group of homeless individuals the group called “graduates” of its resource-navigation program. Six people have found permanent housing through the program, which started last spring, and 16 people total have participated in or are making their way through it. Help with getting jobs is also part of the process.
Participants link up with a mentor from one of Change the Trend’s member organizations to walk with them through the process of stabilizing their lives.
The organizations themselves make up a wide web of resources. Giving Heart partners with Tri-County Health Department of Arapahoe, Adams and Douglas counties; AllHealth; the nonprofit STRIDE Community Health Center; a mobile dental center; and a voucher program for identification cards and birth certificates, said Donna Zimmerman, director of Giving Heart. A laundry service is coming soon.
Change the Trend’s members were already pulling a heavy load in assisting the suburban homeless community before they came together in 2017. Mike Sandgren, the group’s leader, isn’t aware of any emergency shelter other than Severe Weather Shelter Network in west Arapahoe County. But the group wants to go further, working with the newly formed Tri-Cities Homelessness Policy Group, a team of city officials, police and community organizations in Englewood, Littleton and Sheridan.
“That group’s first big initiative is to help gather some data around who it is specifically that’s experiencing homelessness,” Sandgren said. “Before we develop any strategic plan, we want to have that data.”
Zimmerman said the key to success for nonprofits helping the homeless is the level of collaboration.
“At Giving Heart, we have the onsite agencies in their specialties. They are the ones doing work that we can’t,” Zimmerman said. “Giving Heart is the hub for those agencies to all work together on the issues. I see a huge network growing.”
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