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Homeless Palliative Care Outreach Program: Harborview Medical Center

L.R. is a 61-year old man worried about his next breath. Without a new portable oxygen tank, he fears that his worsening Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) will limit his mobility even more. His isolation and depression feel heavier and heavier.

A small but mighty four person team backed by a world-renowned hospital pushed through multiple barriers to secure the tank - an essential
medical supply and symbolic gesture that they are walking beside him.

The team is the Homeless Palliative Care Outreach Program at Harborview Medical Center - the first program of its kind in the country and one gaining increased visibility for their innovation and compassion.

Tony Boxwell, nurse practitioner (l) Stan Foreman, client (r) Image credit: University of Washington Alumni Magazine

Tony Boxwell, nurse practitioner (l) Stan Foreman, client (r)

Image credit: University of Washington Alumni Magazine

As part of a larger strategy to address the growing numbers of elderly individuals who experience homelessness, nurse practitioners and social workers go out to encampments, shelters, and emergency rooms to identify individuals coping with potentially life threatening illnesses.

Their goal is simple yet profound - keep patients comfortable and minimize pain by addressing their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

L.R.'s health continues to decline and he focuses on advanced care planning. The Palliative Care Outreach team is leveraging every resource within Harborview and among HCHN partners to assure that he remains housed and well cared for.

Learn more about the Palliative Care Outreach Team: USA Today Feature on HMC's Palliative Care Outreach.

New South King County street outreach team joins HCHN

Homelessness in and of itself is a crisis. Add complex behavioral health issues and criminal justice involvement and your need for a caring team on your side is that much greater. Enter CReW (Counseling, Recovery, and Wellness) from Catholic Community Services.

CReW was selected in HCHN's 2017 competitive bidding process to find and connect with South King County's most vulnerable residents. With a slogan, "we will meet you where you’re at, to help you get where you hope to be," CReW embodies HCHN's philosophy of care.

Team leads Matt and Jessi are charged with new program design. Their strategies that will turn that slogan into success:

  • Persistence: CReW listens and learns from each individual it serves. The team knows first hand that it can take years from a first encounter under a bridge to a last one in permanent housing.
  • Partnerships: South King County faces unique geographic and resource challenges. CReW reduces them through collaboration with health care, law enforcement, and housing agencies.

No one organization can solve the complexity of homelessness, behavioral health, and criminal justice issues alone. CReW's person-by-person and city-by-city approach moves in the right direction - from crisis to recovery and wellness.

Top: Jessi Hildreth and Matt Landes, CReW outreach staff
Bottom: Matt meeting with Lance, a new CReW client

New East Side street outreach team joins HCHN

How do you create a safe and accessible space for young people who experience homelessness and housing instability?

Friends of Youth knows to listen and learn from the experts - their clients. De'Mario Shepard is one of those experts:

This is the place to go. If you see most of the kids here, I am pretty sure they would be in more trouble if they did not have this place. And you can't sleep outside anymore, if you do that you are going to get locked up, so you are better off having a shelter place. And for young adults they don't have to go to the big boy, with the adult adults yet. It scares people to go to the adult one. So they go to the younger one where it's their age realm. I have been to both of them. Here you don't get judged."

De'Mario, now 24, is doing his part to stay on a path of stability. He achieved his first goal to secure housing and is on his way toward achieving his second goal: applying to Bellevue College.

Friends of Youth is doing their part. They educate their communities about what system barriers can present challenges for De'Mario and they go out to find other young people in need of safe spaces.

Rae Rome, mental health outreach specialist (l) De'Mario Shepard, Friends of Youth client (c) Sasha Vine, drop-in & outreach coordinator (r)
Friends of Youth Drop-in Center, Redmond

Friends of Youth was selected in HCHN's 2017 competitive bidding process to provide street outreach and wraparound services to homeless youth in East and North King County.