Helping the Homeless: CHC partners with day services ministry
Updated: Oct 11
Anthony Jackson says he sleeps better knowing that the Open Hands clinic is always there to help him.
“This is a great place,” Jackson said recently. “For people trying to get back on their feet, it’s perfect. I got behind on bills and was on drugs a little while ago. It's been a long time. I’ve been through a lot. I come here for support and try to give back a little bit.”
Jefferson Comprehensive Care System Inc. (JCSSI), a Community Health Center based in Pine Bluff, operates the Open Hands clinic in southeast Little Rock. It’s a much-needed community resource, especially for the homeless population.
The clinic shares its facility with Jericho Way, a day resource center for the homeless providing meals, showers, and laundry services.
Recently, JCSSI held a barbecue lunch for patients and community leaders to commemorate National Health Center Week. They planned on serving meals to 200 people. Medical and dental screenings were also available.
“We want to make sure that [the homeless] are aware there is a full-service primary care clinic for them,” said Sandra Brown, chief executive officer of JCCSI.
Multiple community leaders came to the lunch to show their support, including Little Rock City Director Virgil Miller, state Rep. Denise Ennett for Arkansas of Little Rock, and former Mayor Mark Stodola. Justin Gardner, a staff member for Congressman French Hill, also attended.
Stodola helped lead the city restoration of the facility some years ago.
“It was an old railroad station that was basically condemned,” Stodola recalled. “We got it all cleaned up and code approved.
Having the combined services of a resource center with a full-time medical clinic is fantastic. It does a world of good.”
Brown said Open Hands also offers transportation services and substance abuse counseling. The clinic works with the Kroger grocery store and pharmacy down the street to provide prescription drugs.
Jericho Way is a service of Depaul International. The organization based in London is inspired by St. Vincent de Paul, the “patron saint of charity.”
Jackson, who grew up in the Central High area of Little Rock, said he’s extremely grateful to Open Hands for helping him with issues he was having with his prostate. “I’m a lot better now,” he said.
Another patient, Floyd Frank, grew up in the Russellville area. He said he used to be a truck driver but got into trouble and was thrown out of his house. He now lives underneath a nearby interstate. He said he’s glad he found his way to Little Rock and to Open Hands.
“This place has helped me, and I’ve been using it to get back going,” Frank said. “The clinic has helped me out, especially when I need anti-biotics for my finger, which I hurt real bad.”
Miller, the city director for the neighborhood where Open Hands is located, said, “It means a great deal to have a Community Health Center in Ward 1. It is not a crime to be homeless. What we have here are people trying to help unsheltered people. If they didn’t have this medical service, where would they get it? Sandra is a good friend and we’re here for whatever the city can do to help.”
Janjenette Collier, director of population health for JCSSI, calls working at Open Hands a “very humbling experience.” She said it feels good to help people, especially those who are in need and without resources. The clinic helps provide a quality of life for homeless patients.
For example, Collier recalled one patient recently had a stroke and had forgotten how to read. It took a while for JCCSI staff to get paperwork filled out and to learn what medical issues needed addressing. But after a little effort, they determined the patient had high blood pressure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
“It’s rewarding to see how much better they feel after they have received the services they’ve acquired,” Collier said. “They come in sad, and when they leave, they are smiling.”