An unassuming door on Winston St. in downtown L.A. opens into a range of valuable medical services for people on Skid Row. Known as the Joshua House Clinic, the facility is part of the Los Angeles Christian Health Centers (LACHC), a faith-based nonprofit that operates in many underserved areas in the city.
LACHC’s mission is to “show God’s love by providing quality, comprehensive healthcare,” which the agency makes available through two full-time clinics and 11 satellite sites that offer medical, dental, optometry, mental health and social services to people suffering from poverty, homelessness and disease.
Last year, the staff of 120 cared for more than 9,000 patients who received 29,371 medical examinations, 5,415 dental visits, and 4,317 mental health sessions. All services are free or low-cost, depending on income, and no one is denied assistance due to a lack of insurance or finances.
In addition to health care, LACHC tries to secure housing for homeless patients. Gina Jones, LACHC director of Social Services, said, “One of the largest barriers to good health and mental health outcomes is the instability that comes from living on the streets or in emergency shelters. Over and over, we have seen that stable housing has been a foundation on which the patient can build to achieve positive health, mental health, and social outcomes.”
“Whether patients find ‘housing through healthcare’ or ‘healthcare in housing,’ we understand the critical connection between healthcare, housing and wellness,” added L. Renee Smith, LACHC director of individual giving and public relations.
To illustrate ‘housing through healthcare,’ Smith shared the story of Joe, a homeless man depressed by the death of his wife who visited the Joshua Clinic for medical services. LACHC gave Joe health care as well as guided him through the process of accessing benefits and connected him to a program that provided housing vouchers and ended his homelessness.
LACHC case managers use LA County’s Coordinated Entry System (CES), a network of 200 agencies, to streamline the process of finding housing for patients. In 2015, LACHC case managers placed more than 30 patients into housing.
“It used to take me two years to house my most vulnerable patients. With CES, it takes six months,” said Jones.
Barbara, another LACHC client, is an example of the ‘healthcare in housing’ approach. Four years ago, a case manager appeared at Barbara’s tent at 19th and Hope Streets to offer her permanent housing at the New Genesis Apartments on Main Street. Barbara took advantage of the health services at LACHC’s satellite clinic located on the first floor of the building and received medicine to manage her hypertension and depression.
“Now, she sees LACHC Medical Provider Cindy Kang regularly and stays on top of her medical care. When Barbara was sick with a cold for more than two weeks, she went downstairs in her pajamas to see Cindy. For Barbara, this would not be possible living on the streets. Barbara found healthcare in housing,” said Smith.
To help as many vulnerable individuals as possible, LACHC partners with several agencies that host part-time clinics including the Midnight Mission and Volunteers of America located in the Skid Row district along with Exodus Recovery and World Impact in the Watts community.
With an estimated 28,000 homeless in the city of L.A., the need for LACHC’s services will continue to increase. The non-profit recently launched a campaign to build a 25,000 square feet facility on 7th and Wall Street to meet health care needs of 1,200 additional patients.
“LACHC takes a patient centered, team-based approach and wraps services around every patient throughout our network,” said Smith. “Our motto, ‘Serving All, With Open Hearts’ means we are here to serve everyone and that there is no ‘wrong door’ to access services at LACHC.”
To volunteer, donate or learn more, visit lachc.com.