Nursing students provide medical help, hope for homeless

August 17, 2012 | Features, UToday
By Samantha Watson

A group of nursing students from The University of Toledo has stepped in to help homeless families at the Family House after the nonprofit organization lost its community-based grant of $82,000.

What began as a simple requirement for nursing students taking a community health nursing class has become an eye-opening experience for many of them. They get hands-on experience working with the families in a small clinic and helping to keep the building clean.

“These service projects help them widen their cultural perceptions,” said Karen Hoblet, UT assistant professor of nursing, who instructs the class. “This course lets them experience how others have to live and encourages them to not judge others.”

The Family House is the largest homeless shelter in northwest Ohio; it serves more than 800 families annually and is located in a YMCA building, which was built in the 1930s.

The building has communal bathrooms and no janitorial staff. Families are expected to keep the place clean, but many have no experience with cleaning, according to Hoblet. When the class arrived, residents complained that the bathrooms were moldy.

Hoblet and her students knew that, in order for these families to be healthy, they needed a clean environment. They set to work cleaning the building, especially the bathrooms.

“We harkened back to Florence Nightingale,” Hoblet said. “We want to care for not only the individual, but also for their environmental needs.”

The class also did a fundraising raffle in order to stock the small clinic at the Family House, which needed supplies. The College of Nursing is sponsoring a grant to place nursing students and faculty in the clinic, which is open on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon during the semester.

The clinic supplies these families with medical histories to take with them wherever they go, since many do not have medical records. They also refer residents to community-based clinics with specialty services when needed.

“The Family House provides them with a place to live, food to eat and things like that — but as far as medical care goes, they really don’t have anything or any means of getting that unless someone helps them, which is what we’re there for,” said Jessica Phillips, a fourth-year nursing student, who is taking the class.

Hoblet hopes other colleges get involved with the service as well. For example, she said the College of Engineering could assist by looking into the remediation of the building because it is so outdated.

The group also has reached out to local churches and organizations to find funding for the Family House because it lost so much grant money. The shelter hopes to find funds to replace what it lost, as well as continue work in the clinic.

“We want them to know that somebody is out there for them and that even though things are bad, there are resources out there for them,” Phillips said. “We want them to not give up, not lose hope, and know that this is not the end of the road.”

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