UNT Hearts for the Homeless chapter provides health resources for homeless people

Article Originally Published by Maria Lawson on North Texas Daily

Homeless people around the U.S. have often lacked proper health care to help them get the resources and services they need to stay healthy. Hearts for the Homeless is an international organization that has taken the initiative to help these people and has provided homeless people with over 3,000 blood pressure screenings worldwide.

Hearts for the Homeless has a chapter at UNT, impacting the lives of homeless people in the Denton and Dallas communities by providing these screenings and other health-related services.

“Hearts for the Homeless is an international nonprofit that focuses on bringing awareness and providing services for some of the most common illnesses that we see in the homeless population,” said Saylor Jordan, Hearts for the Homeless international acting officer of medical information.

The organization is designed to provide services for people who may not be able to access them otherwise.

“One of our biggest goals is to fill the gap in our health care system that makes those services inaccessible to the homeless population,” Jordan said.

Homeless people typically lack care for heart problems due to the requirements needed for diagnosis. Hearts for the Homeless works to give people screenings to help them achieve a diagnosis without extensive visits to the doctor’s office.

“With the blood pressure, an individual can’t even be diagnosed with hypertension until they’ve had three different readings in a specific time span,” Jordan said. “Even if an individual was able to see a doctor, they wouldn’t be able to get a diagnosis just that one time, but with implementing the blood pressure screenings, we now give individuals a weekly basis to come and get read.”

Hearts for the Homeless is also implementing depression screenings and anti-substance abuse initiatives to provide homeless people with these resources that they may be lacking. The organization does not have the ability to treat patients, but they can help them acknowledge that they need a diagnosis and direct them to the proper people who can provide treatments.

Hearts for the Homeless treasurer and UNT biology and Spanish junior, Ashton Collins, said providing medical resources for homeless people is important because they are often neglected, even though they have the same basic needs as all other humans.

“The homeless population is by and large one of the most disenfranchised populations in this nation, and while they have basic health needs like the rest of us, they often go overlooked,” Collins said. “This organization provides preventative measures for the homeless population on rather common, yet easily preventable ailments that can affect them.”

Ally Nowakowski, a Hearts for the Homeless member, said she can help individuals whose blood pressure is too high before their condition worsens. Volunteers like Nowakowski have benefitted from the organization as much as the population they serve. Through conversations, she said, she has learned about the lives of those in her community and is now better prepared to pursue a career in the medical field.

“I have learned a great deal about my community simply from my interactions with the people we give readings to, as they will occasionally open up and talk to us about their particular situation,” Collins said. “It is always eye-opening, and I greatly enjoy conversing with them.”

Giving homeless people the knowledge of their health symptoms allows the organization to direct homeless people in the right direction to getting the proper treatment.

“This organization is important because it provides a health-related service and knowledge thereof to a population that is generally overlooked and impoverished, thereby typically unable to receive proper care,” Collins said. “While we cannot diagnose or treat, the simple knowledge of, ‘Hey, your blood pressure is quite high, here are some ways you can bring it down,’ is valuable to someone that otherwise would not have known.”

Jordan said she is proud of her work as a volunteer.

“I feel like I have become more whole as a person [as a volunteer],” Jordan said. “I get to wake up every day and serve these people, rather than knowing the personal effects and aftermath of homelessness.”

Hearts for the Homeless is fueled by the work of volunteers who are part of the organization. In order to volunteer with the organization, individuals must attend one general meeting a month, Jordan said.

“The individuals who should join our organization [are] those that are hungry to give back or motivated to give back and who live their life with a hand lead out to serve, rather than to get back,” Jordan said. “[Hearts for the Homeless] is an organization that not only do we life up the people that we serve, but we life up the people that work for us.”

Featured Image: Members of Hearts for the Homeless pose in the UNT Administration Building on Feb. 14, 2020. Image by Quincy Palmer

Source: North Texas Daily