The Fourth Street Clinic is, for homeless individuals, conveniently located in the Rio Grande neighborhood between The Road Home shelter and Rescue Mission. But with new shelters and low-income housing planned in other areas of the city, patients will be more spread out. That means the non-profit clinic will have to work harder to reach them.
James Dawkins, a patient at Fourth Street Clinic has severe frostbite. He’s a dark-skinned black man but his hands are raw, pink and open. He’s been here every day this week to soak his hands in a water and vinegar mixture and have his bandages replaced.
“Is this the first time you’ve had frost bite?” I ask him.
“First ever,” he says.
‘So what are they doing for you here?’
“They’re just giving me really good treatment. Making sure my wounds are clean so there’s no infection. I already know that parts, certainly the tips or something might die, but I’m not going to lose my fingers.”
When the new shelters open, it might not be as easy for people like Dawkins to get to and from the clinic-especially without a car. But CEO Laura Michalski has a plan - a mobile clinic, like an RV on steroids, with exam rooms and lab services.
“Even at our current location at 400 west, 400 south, we are faced with challenges of individuals getting here,” Michalski says. “And this model would really allow us to go out and meet people where they’re at and then if services dictate that they need to come back here then we can work with them to get them back to this location.”
Michalski says the clinic applied for a federal grant to pay for the unit, which is expected to cost around half a million dollars. But the clinic was not awarded the money. So she’s seeking help from private funders and the community at large. Michalski says the clinic on wheels isn’t a luxury item. It’s the right solution for the population she serves.