As the sun shines the last of its afternoon brilliance through the trees lining South Yakima Avenue, doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel arrive from their shifts at medical centers and put on their Personal Protective Equipment to volunteer another evening at the free Neighborhood Clinic, a 501c3 nonprofit.
“For folks like ‘Joe’, a visit with the Neighborhood Clinic could be the difference between life and death,” says NC Excutive Director Benita Ki. One evening, soon after Washington’s Stay Home Stay Healthy directive, ‘Joe’ was triaged outside the clinic doors according to the clinic’s protocols responding to Covid-19. He was given a nasal swab test which would not come back that night. Joe was experiencing homelessness, and when the test returned positive, the clinic staff began to search for him. With the help of area shelters, he was eventually found and given care at a newly opened center for folks who need a safe space to quarantine.
A third of the clinic’s visitors are people who are experiencing homelessness. Nearly two-thirds of all patients identify as people of color, and ninety percent do not have insurance. The volunteer medical team also sees a growing number of patients who speak very little English.
One hundred and fifty hardworking medical staff continue to volunteer for shifts at the clinic during this pandemic, many without having even a bite to eat after work before they arrive. Even so, Clinic Coordinator Josefina Clarivel Manzueta, RN, acknowledges that “it can be a little bit overwhelming at times.”
The clinic itself is over thirty-five years old, and has continued to provide urgent care as well as help with some chronic conditions to patients on Monday and Thursday evenings. In partnership with the University of Washington Tacoma’s Social Worker program, the clinic also provides referrals and locates other resources for people who choose to meet with a social work intern. Neighborhood Clinic also helps area hospitals by diverting patients from crowded and costly emergency room visits for issues that can be cared for at the clinic.
With support from donors, Neighborhood Clinic has been able to remain open throughout the pandemic, and has continued to provide excellent healthcare service to the community! For more information, including ways to donate or volunteer, visit neighborhoodclinictacoma.org.