Family Promise and Friendship Mission, Inc. are non-profit organizations in Montgomery that provide shelter services for people who experience homelessness. In 2019, these organizations renewed their commitment as REACH partners and sent several new case managers to The Wellness Coalition’s February 2019 Community Health Worker training.
Since that training, these organizations have been providing a consistent healthcare access component throughout their client services, including asking health-related questions in their intake and documentation processes and providing wellness guidance and coaching when appropriate.
“Our focus on health has moved from individual to community education and interaction on healthy behaviors,” said Tara Davis, Executive Director of Friendship Mission, Inc.
Friendship Mission is a faith-based nonprofit that operates a shelter for men in West Montgomery and a shelter for women in North Montgomery. Residents at these shelters are welcome to stay for up to a year’s time, as long as they actively participate in organizational and self-management programs.
“Our clients are experiencing homelessness but they haven’t given up on becoming productive and independent,” said Tara. “Often, poor health leads to people becoming homeless.”
Case Managers Pat Adams and Sophie Dowdell regularly follow up with the residents of Friendship Mission, checking in to make sure that they have kept clinical appointments or have made some progress on health-related action plans. When appropriate, they provide direct education to these residents about best practices regarding the management of a chronic condition, They are always a source of accountability and encouragement.
Striving for Change to End the Cycle of Chronic Conditions
In addition to incorporating Community Health Worker services into ongoing case management for their clients, Tara is striving to see policy change in the type of food that the organization chooses from the Montgomery Area Food Bank (MAFB). At the MAFB, cakes and cookies are regularly available. Tara has asked her staff to begin limiting the quantity of the sugary treats brought back to the shelter campuses and is in the process of creating internal controls to better guide food service and food acquisition.
Such policy change, in addition to the incorporation of Community Health Worker services, is leading to a deepened awareness of health and a context for healthy choices at Friendship Mission.
Family Promise and the Power of a Care Network
Family Promise of Montgomery is a nonprofit organization that uses local faith-based institutions as temporary shelter for families with children. This organization serves up to four families at a time, providing safe and comfortable shelter, child care, meals, and case management over the course of a month. The calls to Family Promise for help exceed the organization’s capacity. Despite this, their staff works to determine how they can be a source of information and referrals to all who call.
Case Manager Mary Koval appreciates the ability to provide health-related guidance, stating, “I’m now able to help more people than I was before.”
Mary works over the phone with most of the people she serves. She follows up with those people who expressed interest in talking about their health needs. Mary has found that the majority of people she has spoken to are willing to have these conversations and are open to guidance. The primary needs of Mary’s clients include:
- A medical home
- Weight loss
- Better nutrition
- Tobacco cessation
Mary has referred many of her clients to Medical Outreach Ministries (MOM) to meet these needs. MOM is a charity clinic that offers free medical care for up to a year to uninsured residents of Montgomery, Autauga, and Elmore counties who are living with income equal or less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. Mary also refers many female clients to the Well Woman program, a public health initiative offered to women ages 15-55 at the Montgomery and Macon County Health Departments that provide free healthcare, nutrition education, and physical activity opportunities.
For those who want to quit smoking, Mary has directed clients to use Quit-Now, a public health service in which smoking cessation counselors provide phone counseling and eight weeks of nicotine patches at no cost.
“It is a joy to share such quality resources with the people who call our agency and an even greater joy to hear upon following up with them that they have used the resource,” said Mary. “As a result, they feel a bit less burdened by the realities of their lives.”
Friendship Mission Inc. and Family Promise of Montgomery are two organizations helping vulnerable people to find resources they need to lead healthy lives. Organizations like these, that incorporate healthcare access and food service policies, help to reduce the health disparities that affect our communities, friends, and neighbors.