Supporting the Women and Children Affected by Homelessness in South Florida: A Closer Look at This Vulnerable Population
Homelessness is a systemic issue throughout the United States1, with several counties in South Florida being among the top largely suburban communities affected. The overall objective of this project was to establish a partnership with a community homeless shelter and aid with their specific needs during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, we, a group of six MS2s at Nova Southeastern College of Allopathic Medicine (NSU MD), contacted several community homeless shelters in South Florida and ultimately established a partnership with the Lotus House Miami, due to their mission of improving the lives of women and children affected by homelessness. We conducted a needs assessment by surveying Lotus House employees as well as researching available public health data. From the needs assessment, we determined the current needs of this organization to be various items, such as masks, gloves, pillows, sheets, and diapers, as well as available educational materials regarding COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccines. Therefore, we conducted a donation drive of both physical supplies and monetary contributions (via social medial platforms including Instagram), of which we raised $923.61. Through this donation drive we were able to obtain a large variety of the PPE items identified in our needs assessment, and we bought additional supplies with the monetary contributions we obtained through our monetary donations. Additionally, we created and distributed pamphlets on COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccines at the facility, in both English and Spanish. We fulfilled our primary objectives of raising awareness of the homelessness prevalent in South Florida, meeting the needs of Lotus House, and educating those experiencing homelessness. Our approach can be used to not only build partnerships with local organizations and homeless shelters, but also foster greater medical student involvement in the local community. We have since maintained our partnership with Lotus House through an NSU MD Registered Student Organization, and set up volunteer events there every month.
References: 1. Melix, B.L., Uejio, C.K., Kintziger, K.W. et al. Florida neighborhood analysis of social determinants and their relationship to life expectancy. BMC Public Health.20, 632 (2020). 2. Council on Homelessness, Department of Children and Families (2013). Council on Homelessness 2013 Report.
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