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Philadelphia Consortium Projects - 2016

Homeless & Transitional Housing

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Assessing Independent Living Skills at My Brother’s House

Student Interns:
Nicholas Cucci, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College
Clifford Hegedus, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College

Academic Preceptor:
George P. Valko, MD, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College

Community Preceptor:
Misty Sparks, Bethesda Project, My Brother’s House

The Community Site:
My Brother’s House, a component of the Bethesda Project, is a safe-haven shelter for formerly homeless men who battle mental illness and substance abuse. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Disabilities Conditions; Health Communication; Mental Health; Preparedness; Substance Abuse

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns at Bethesda Project, My Brother’s House worked to develop an assessment in the form of a structured interview to identify independent living skills that shelter residents can work on in order to be successful in future permanent housing. The assessment contains categories such as food and money management, personal hygiene and transportation in a Google document, where case managers and other employees can record areas of competence and improvement. During the assessment interview, shelter residents are surveyed using prompts from the Google document, which helps ensure consistency in the skills the residents are asked to demonstrate. In addition to creating the assessment, the interns built relationships with shelter residents, either answering questions about health topics or simply playing dominoes and learning about their lives.

Personal Statements:
Nicholas said, “My Brother’s House, and the men that reside there, taught me to try to understand all individuals regardless of their past. Each resident has their own unique story and deserves to be valued by society and the physicians who care for them. As a future provider, I hope to give these individuals a more positive experience with health care. I will carry these lessons of humility with me throughout my career.” Cliff said, “I’m grateful for my time at My Brother’s House because I gained insight into the societal problems of homelessness, mental health and substance abuse—three areas woefully understood by the general public. While I am proud about the lasting difference Nick and I made at the shelter through the living skills assessment that staff will continue to use after we’re gone, the relationships with the shelter residents that I have built over the last seven weeks will impact me far greater than the assessment ever will. This experience showed me the bureaucratic barriers to housing and the hardship of recovery from addiction, and instilled a renewed sense of determination to go the extra mile for patients affected by these problems in my future career.”

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Covenant House Summer of 2016

Student Interns:
Mira Henien, Drexel University College of Medicine
Rebecca Kotcher, University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine
Jessie Price, University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine

Academic Preceptors:
Kenneth Ginsburg, MD, MS Ed, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Joan I. Gluch, PhD, RDH, PHDHP, University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine
Elissa Goldberg, MSS, LSW, Drexel University College of Medicine

Community Preceptor:
David Reis, Covenant House Pennsylvania

The Community Site:
The Covenant House Pennsylvania Crisis Center provides shelter and support for young adults aged 18 to 21. The crisis center provides a full range of services, including case management and advocacy, access to legal advice, on-site health care provided by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and an educational and vocational counseling and training program. Covenant House helps youth who are in transition maintain stability and offers guidance to keep them growing in a positive direction. The youth are expected to take on more responsibility, such as finding a job and completing educational goals, in preparation for their departure from Covenant House. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Educational Advancement/Literacy; Health Communication; Mental Health; Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns at Covenant House Pennsylvania Crisis Center helped run CHOICES, Covenant House’s job readiness course for residents beginning to look for employment. CHOICES included mock interviews, résumé preparation and professionalism training. In addition, the interns developed a health survey to assess what residents already knew about health and what they were interested in learning more about. Based on this survey, the interns held weekly health education sessions with the youth on topics such as oral health, heart health, healthy relationships and mental health/stress reduction. The interns also helped clinic staff facilitate medical intake visits for new residents.

Personal Statements:
Jessie said, “Working at Covenant House this summer, I have been stretched, challenged and inspired in a number of ways. Not only did I get the opportunity to utilize my background and knowledge to engage the residents in sessions on general health education, but I learned from their stories, the selfless staff and the clinic team how to compassionately and genuinely see people for who they really are. Bridging the Gaps allowed me to set aside my previous idea of community health and to adopt a new way of thinking about how the entire health care team can best work together to recognize and engage those that are too often ignored.” Mira said, “This summer at Covenant House, I learned more than I ever could have imagined about working with the underserved. When I began working with the residents, I noticed how much strength each resident possessed. I admired this resilience, but I started to realize this resilience was built through immense trauma. The youth showed me how powerful a reliable support system and an open ear can be in turning someone’s life around.” Rebecca said, “I consider Philadelphia my home and hope to someday serve this city as a physician. Bridging the Gaps offered a unique opportunity to work daily at a community site, with time to engage deeply with community members. I am grateful for any support or education that I could provide this summer but know that the youth gave me much more by generously sharing their space and their stories. Witnessing their incredible strengths — kindness, creativity, intelligence, optimism and resilience — will impact how I see and interact with my patients and community in the future.”

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Finding the Right Home

Student Interns:
Cindy Kui, Drexel University College of Medicine
Portia Womer, Drexel University, Dornsife School of Public Health

Academic Preceptor:
Brent Simmons, MD, Drexel University College of Medicine

Community Preceptors:
Michelle Abbruzzese, MSS, Depaul USA
Shannon Morgan, Depaul USA

The Community Site:
Depaul USA consists of Depaul House and St. Raymond’s House. Depaul USA provides services for homeless men, including basic shelter services, weekly case management, connections to employment, health education, behavioral health therapy, financial literacy and budgeting, and peer support with a focus on preventive strategies through a recovery-oriented system of care. Depaul House also provides respite care for men who are frequent emergency room users. The respite helps to stabilize the individual and work with him to obtain permanent housing. St. Raymond’s House opened in October 2015 and provides permanent housing for homeless individuals with chronic health conditions. Services include case management, assistance with employment, and weekly health and wellness activities. All services are delivered using the harm-reduction approach within a trauma-informed, strengths-based and holistic environment. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Chronic Disease (Diabetes, Kidney Disease, Respiratory Diseases, etc.); Educational Advancement/Literacy; Heart Disease and Stroke; Mental Health; Tobacco Use

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns at Depaul USA led weekly health and wellness discussions and interactive activities for residents. Additionally, the interns worked on life skills with the residents, including healthy meal planning, finding employment and maintaining relationships. They worked with residents on literacy and strengthening their résumés. The interns assisted case managers with intake interviews, financial budgeting and researching community resources. Also, the interns worked with the kitchen staff to prepare healthier meals.

Personal Statements:
Cindy said, “My internship with BTG CHIP has opened my eyes to the complexity of homelessness and the challenges in overcoming society’s stigma on the homeless. Each resident at St. Raymond’s and Depaul has their own unique story behind their homelessness, and I am always amazed by their resilience despite past hardships. … Depaul USA has given me a new perspective on the homeless and has inspired me to advocate for the disadvantaged population.” Portia said, “BTG has been an incredible experience. It has opened my eyes to new job opportunities working with new populations. I wish the internship was longer and allowed us more experience in the field. Working at Depaul House has taught me not to stereotype and to be respectful of all people and their situations. Homelessness can affect anyone, and it is easy to forget that.”

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Serving the Soul: Food, Stress Relief and Community at Mercy Hospice

Student Interns:
Tanisha Monte, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson College of Health Professions, Department of Occupational Therapy
Samantha Schoer, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College

Academic Preceptors:
Rickie Brawer, PhD, MPH, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College
Caryn Johnson, MS, OTR/L, FAOTA, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson College of Health Professions, Department of Occupational Therapy
James Plumb, MD, MPH, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College

Community Preceptor:
Katherine Baumgardner, MSW, Mercy Hospice

The Community Site:
Founded in 1976 in Philadelphia by the Sisters of Mercy order, Mercy Hospice is a recovery house providing support for mothers with children and single women who are in recovery from drugs and alcohol. While in residence they receive case management services, life skills and parenting education, and assistance with housing. In addition to the residential program, Mercy also provides hot meals five days a week, showers three days a week, toiletries, clothing and case management to currently homeless women and children. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Heart Disease and Stroke; Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health; Physical Activity and Fitness; Tobacco Use

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns at Mercy Hospice surveyed the residents and staff on activities of interest. From these surveys, the interns created programming one night a week that incorporated drug-free entertainment and stress relief for the women and children. These activities included game nights, a Zumba class, a spa night, a day at a children’s park and a motivational art class. While never directly giving health education, the interns included ways to live healthier and distributed oral health and hygiene supplies. The Zumba class worked on cardiovascular health, and the participants were asked to commit to one way of bettering their health. During the weekdays, the interns often worked with Mercy Hospice kitchen staff who also feed lunch daily to women with food insecurity. The interns’ responsibilities included food preparation, serving and cleaning. The interns surveyed day guests who came for lunch about their interests in a project or activities. As a result, these women chose to design six new aprons to show appreciation to the kitchen staff. The staff were grateful for the recognition of their hard work. The women of Mercy Hospice opened their home and the staff opened their workplace to the interns, teaching them many lessons that will be incorporated into their future careers.

Personal Statements:
Tanisha and Samantha said, “Working at Mercy Hospice has been an eye-opening and heart-warming experience that has helped us to grow personally and as professionals. The women and staff at this facility constantly reminded us how important it is to remain judgment- and stigma-free, because you never know someone’s story. Something as little as a smile can make all the difference in someone’s day.”

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Living Well From 3 to 93

Student Interns:
Nicole Baarck, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College
Siobhaun Manion, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson College of Health Professions, Department of Occupational Therapy

Academic Preceptors:
Rickie Brawer, PhD, MPH, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College
Caryn Johnson, MS, OTR/L, FAOTA, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson College of Health Professions, Department of Occupational Therapy
James D. Plumb, MD, MPH, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College

Community Preceptor:
Barbara Coleman, Mercy Neighborhood Ministries

The Community Site:
Mercy Neighborhood Ministries of Philadelphia, Inc., located in the Nicetown-Tioga section of North Philadelphia, is a faith-based community center. Mercy provides child care services such as Head Start, preschool, before- and after-school care, and a nine-week summer day camp to children from pre-K through eighth grade. In addition, they provide adult day care for adults who are unable to complete daily self-care activities independently or who desire companionship. Mercy Neighborhood Ministries also provides GED classes. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Disabilities and Secondary Conditions; Elder Health and Senior Quality of Life; Health-Related Quality of Life and Well-Being; Heart Disease and Stroke; Physical Activity and Fitness

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns worked at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries of Philadelphia, Inc., with children in the summer day camp and with older adults in the adult day care. On Mondays and Thursdays, the interns worked at the children’s summer camp, where they assisted classroom teachers with the daily summer camp activities, chaperoned field trips, and organized various activities focusing on cool-down/relaxation techniques to promote emotional well-being and positive behavior. On Tuesdays and Fridays, the interns worked in the adult day care program, where they assisted the staff with daily activities, including group exercises and daily discussion in the morning, crafts and games, and serving meals and snacks. In addition, they taught this group about cardiovascular health and nutrition and organized activities to promote cognitive and emotional wellness.

Personal Statements:
Nicole said, “I am certain that my experience working at Mercy this summer will stick with me for the rest of my career. My time here has given me a new understanding of the complex challenges faced by many members of this North Philadelphia community, has proven the strength of an interdisciplinary team, and has shown the power that is held in simply lending an ear or holding a hand. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to have fun all summer with this incredible family of students, seniors and staff.” Siobhaun said, “Mercy gave me a summer of expanding my mind and experiences. Mercy gave such fun and interesting days, while learning about how individuals make the health choices they do. I know what I learned here at Mercy this summer will impact my career in the future.”

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Health Education for Those Who Have Experienced Chronic Homelessness

Student Interns:
Deirdre Kurtz, Temple University, Lewis Katz School of Medicine
Mary Helen Schwartz, Temple University, Lewis Katz School of Medicine

Academic Preceptor:
Jacquee Lukawski, MEd, Temple University, Lewis Katz School of Medicine

Community Preceptors:
Sarah Yemane, MEd, Project HOME
Christine Zacchei, MSS, LSW, Project HOME

The Community Site:
The mission of Project HOME (Housing, Opportunities for employment, Medicine, Education) is to empower adults, children and families to break the cycle of homelessness, to alleviate the underlying causes of poverty, and to enable all of us to attain our fullest potential as individuals and as members of the broader community. Kairos House is a progressive-demand residence for men and women who have been chronically homeless and have a primary diagnosis of serious mental illness. The program provides 36 subsidized single-room-occupancy units in a clean and sober environment. It offers 24-hour staff support, on-site case management, medication monitoring, financial management assistance, and on-site groups and recreational activities. Residents are encouraged to participate in recovery-oriented activities that lead to personal growth, overall well-being and self-sufficiency. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Chronic Disease (Diabetes, Kidney Disease, Respiratory Diseases, etc.); Health Literacy/ Communication; Health-Related Quality of Life and Well-Being; Mental Health; Nutrition and Weight Status

The Project:
During their time at Kairos House, the Bridging the Gaps student interns cultivated relationships with residents and encouraged them to become active participants in achieving a healthy lifestyle. To accomplish this, they held health presentations and one-on-one discussions, covering topics such as nutrition, oral health, hypertension, physical fitness and diabetes, to increase the health literacy of the Project HOME community. The interns also participated in activities that increased residents’ social integration, such as group games at Kairos and field trips in the Philadelphia area.

Personal Statements:
Deirdre said, “Bridging the Gaps pushed me outside of my comfort zone and gave me a better understanding of how social determinants of health affect individuals that have faced adversity. I was nervous on my first day, since I had never worked with a population that had experienced chronic homelessness and concurrently had a mental illness. Not only did I quickly realize these things were nothing to fear, but the residents of Kairos House went out of their way to make me feel like a part of the Project HOME community.” Mary Helen said, “The people in Project HOME, both residents and staff alike, are so welcoming and kind. They have thoroughly increased my understanding of the issues in health care and socioeconomic stability that can lead to homelessness and poverty, and how one can remain hardworking, creative and spirited in spite of such adversities. Interacting with the residents and learning their stories has not only helped me develop better ways to communicate about health with those who have lower health literacy, but also pushed me to appreciate how strongly they maintain their individuality throughout a complex social work and health care process.”

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Ready, Willing & Able to Make a Difference

Student Interns:
Alexander Chen, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College
Robert Wiley, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College

Academic Preceptor:
Maria Hervada-Page, MSS, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College

Community Preceptor:
Mark Atwood, MS, Ready, Willing & Able

The Community Site:
Ready, Willing & Able is a transitional housing provider with a comprehensive approach to tackling homelessness that includes providing paid work, vocational training, adult basic education, job placement, social support services and lifelong graduate services. The facility houses 70 residents. To graduate, trainees must meet three stringent criteria: full-time employment, independent housing and maintenance of a sober lifestyle. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Chronic Disease (Diabetes, Kidney Disease, Respiratory Diseases, etc.); Heart Disease and Stroke; Nutrition and Weight Status; Responsible Sexual Behavior; Tobacco Use

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns spent the summer supplementing the resources at Ready, Willing & Able with health education. The interns provided weekly presentations to the trainees on topics including smoking cessation, diabetes, diet and nutrition, hypertension and cancer, sexual health and mental health. They were available during open office hours every week to discuss with the trainees any health-related questions that arose from the presentations or from their own lives. The interns also accompanied a group of trainees on a trip to the Mütter Museum to expose them to interesting medical phenomena. In addition to health education, the interns were also involved in adult education projects, including math tutoring sessions and creating GED and trade school posters.

Personal Statements:
Alexander said, “My experience at Ready, Willing & Able opened my eyes to the issues surrounding homeless men and the barriers they need to overcome before they can succeed. In talking with both the staff and trainees, I learned about different ways I could provide support to really make life easier for the men. I hope to apply these lessons in the future, both as a health care professional and as an active member of the community.” Robert said, “These months at Ready, Willing & Able have demonstrated to me the importance of listening to every person’s own unique story. In order to help someone you must be able to connect with them, and in order to connect with them you must understand their life experiences. Above all, I have come to realize that it is essential to meet people where they are and to assist them as best you can from that foundation.”

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Fostering Positivity Through a Summer Enrichment Program at Youth Emergency Service

Student Interns:
Sarah Kuwik, Bryn Mawr College, Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research
Paul Leo, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College

Academic Preceptors:
Maria Hervada-Page, MSS, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College
Patrick McManus, MD, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College

Community Preceptor:
Keevon Johnson, BS, Youth Emergency Service

The Community Site:
Youth Emergency Service (YES), located in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia, provides temporary shelter and support services for adolescents aged 12 to 18. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Injury and Violence Prevention; Mental Health; Physical Activity and Fitness; Preparedness; Responsible Sexual Behavior

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns at Youth Emergency Service (YES) planned and implemented a summer enrichment program for the residents of the facility. The primary aim was to provide the youth with engaging activities through which they could learn and grow as individuals. The programming varied widely, ranging from workshops on suicide prevention and racial bias in policing, facilitated by justice-oriented community members, to life-skills sessions, such as cooking, hygiene, etc., facilitated by a combination of YES staff members and outside guests. The interns also used design principles to create and implement a set of YES Youth Values for the facility to foster a culture of positivity and engagement among the youth and to curb the levels of negativity and physical violence that are often prevalent during summer months. Finally, the interns formalized and facilitated a YES Peer Coaches program in which former YES residents came back to the facility in paid positions to act as role models for the youth and provide staff support throughout the summer.

Personal Statements:
Sarah said, “This summer at Youth Emergency Service, I gained a great deal of experience working with adolescents who are at an extremely vulnerable place in their lives. Throughout the summer I was constantly amazed at the resiliency of these youth and their openness to new people and experiences. Working with individuals who are trained in trauma-informed care, I was taught to see the youth not through their specific behaviors but through the complexities of their individual stories. Through my interactions with the youth and staff, I gained a greater understanding of the needs of this community and had the opportunity to work alongside the medical staff, case workers and support staff and witness the interdisciplinary interactions of these groups. For my future as a social worker, my time at YES was invaluable as it reinforced my desire to continue working with adolescents and gave me a realistic and positive experience of a social service agency.” Paul said, “If I am to work as a pediatrician in underserved communities — my desired career — I will need to know how to effectively navigate the multitude of social services available to my patients and their families. This is not something explicitly taught in the traditional medical school curriculum; for this reason, I could not be more grateful that I was able to spend the summer at YES. The amount that I learned while working with the residents and staff members of YES — not only about navigating social services, but also about what resiliency, grit and trauma-informed care look like in an underserved setting — will be key foundational elements to my future career.”

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