ESCONDIDO — More than 150 homeless individuals had the chance to shower, get a haircut, clean their clothes and get a medical checkup during an event at Interfaith Community Services on Aug. 15.
Neighborhood Healthcare partnered with Interfaith to host its Healthcare Day for the Homeless event as part of National Health Center Week, which aims to promote awareness of the nation’s community health centers.
As a federally qualified community health center, Neighborhood Healthcare offers low-cost health care services such as dental, medical and behavioral health.
This is the fourth year the two organizations have partnered to host Healthcare Day for the Homeless. The event provided homeless individuals access to COVID vaccines, toiletries, dental hygiene bags, clothing, tents, blankets, foot exams and nail trimming services.
“People don’t realize that a lot of our homeless population suffer from diabetes and go years without checking their feet,” said Adrian Zavala, director of marketing and community engagement for Neighborhood Healthcare. “Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, by the time they do come in they’re at the point where they need amputation, so this allows us to check on their feet and look for signs now.”
Neighborhood Healthcare also provided harm reduction kits, including Narcan, condoms and drug testing kits, and helped people sign up for medical and food benefits, in addition to the mobile laundry services, showers and haircuts.
Jordan Verdin, who runs Humanity Showers, provides mobile shower services for homeless individuals six days a week throughout the region.
“I believe showers are the most important step to a person getting off the streets because it gives them back their confidence,” Verdin said. “I always tell people it’s really hard to think about what’s next when you don’t even know what’s going on right now without the most basic human needs being met.”
For the last few years, Verdin has partnered with Chuy Acevedo of Ivy League Barber Academy to offer haircuts along with showers.
“We want to make sure the future of the barbering industry is in good hands, and one of the biggest things we need to do and not forget about is that barbershops are built through communities,” Acevedo said. “We make sure our students learn and give back to the community because that will always keep them connected to them.”
Verdin noted the difference in how people look when they walk into the event versus when they leave.
“When you look good, you feel good,” he said. “When people walk in, they look so defeated, but when they leave you can see them smiling and laughing with boosted confidence.”
Part of feeling good also involves clean clothes. For the last few years, Oscar Ortega has run Lived Experiences, which provides mobile laundry services for homeless individuals.
“We try to partner with good people to come out and service them an essential basic need to help people feel refreshed,” Ortega said.
Zavala said Neighborhood Healthcare’s Healthcare Day for the Homeless event has improved each year.
“We realize that this event provides such an essential service,” Zavala said. “Through our partnership with Interfaith, our vision is to see a community where everyone is healthy and happy, and this event helps us further that vision.”