.- Iraq war veteran Samuel Paul Albers had come across hard times and was living at Brother Francis Shelter in Anchorage, Alaska in March 2011 when he came down with a chest cold and sinus infection.
Thanks to a free clinic which is staffed by volunteers from Providence Alaska Medical Center also in Anchorage, Albers received much needed health care.
Albers, who has a degree in human services, now works at the shelter, is moving into a case management position there, and has lived in his own home since August of 2011.
As part of his new job, he counts heads after the shelterâs evening meal. The numbers are then relayed to Providence, which provides all dinners for the shelter every night of the year.
Lately, the shelter has served between 200 and 275 meals a night.
But many of the homeless also require basic medical care.
Heidi Hurliman, an advanced nurse practitioner and director of the shelterâs medical clinic, said volunteer health care workers aim to provide this needed medical care along with a dose of compassion.
âEverybody you treat is the face of Jesus,â Hurliman said. âI remind my folks I work with, itâs the face of Jesus youâre looking at and treating. And the guests we treat are grateful weâre there, and they thank us profusely.â
Providence provides medicine for the clinic as well as volunteer physicians on the first and third Tuesday of each month.
âProvidence has been very generous,â Hurliman said. âThey give us all brand-new medications.â
The clinic is open two to three times a week, based on volunteer availability. It is limited in scope, providing care and treatment for issues like colds the flu, and some wounds. The clinic also coordinates with other medical providers for people who need additional care.
At Providence, Monica Anderson, the hospitalâs chief mission integration officer, said caring for the homeless goes to the heart of the Catholic hospitalâs mission. Providence was founded in Anchorage by the Sisters of Providence in 1939.
âThereâs no way we can be faithful to what we are called to be if weâre not reaching out to the poor and the vulnerable,â Anderson said.
The hospitalâs official mission statement is simple: âAs people of Providence, we reveal Godâs love for all, especially the poor and vulnerable, through our compassionate service.â
Albers, who lived at Brother Francis Shelter for seven months, said the hospitalâs contributions make a tremendous impact.
âAs far as the clinic goes, Iâve known quite a few people that were sick and went there and were able to get help,â he said. âAnd there have been times that weâve seen somebody that we knew wasnât doing really good health wise, but didnât realize how serious the situation was and theyâve gone to the clinic and the doctor or nurse has said, âIâm putting you in an ambulance.â Iâve seen basic wound care that needed to be addressed that probably wouldnât have been addressed otherwise.â
Through the Parish Nurse Program, which is supported through funds from Providence, guests at Brother Francis Shelter also receive care for their feet, which volunteer nurses do in imitation of Christâs washing of his disciplesâ feet at the Last Supper.
Anderson said it is this imitation of Christâs love that ultimately allows Providence to carry forward the healing ministry of Jesus.
âYouâve got to love people,â she said. âIf youâre going to be a revelation of Godâs love, youâve got to love people.â
Posted with permission from Catholic Anchor, newspaper for the Diocese of Anchorage, Alaska.