In the News.
SEACOAST WOMEN HELP HOMELESS ACCESS QUALITY HEALTH CARE
Local ‘Giving Circle' Honors Health Care for the Homeless Program with Monetary Award
Portsmouth, NH (October 24, 2008): Did you know that the average age of a homeless person in New Hampshire is 9 years old? Families in our communities, especially single parents of young children, are increasingly experiencing periods of homelessness due to the lack of affordable housing, child care and health care. One group of local women, the Seacoast Women's Giving Circle, has decided to do something to help these families and individuals access quality health care. At an event on Thursday, they celebrated the selection of the Health Care for the Homeless Program at Families First Health and Support Center as the recipient of their annual gift, which this year is $13,000.
The Seacoast Women's Giving Circle was founded in April 2006 by a group of local women eager to use their skills and resources to address critical issues facing the Seacoast community. A Giving Circle is similar to a book club or investment club, but the focus is making a difference in the community. Giving Circle members contribute annually to a pooled fund and participate in volunteer service projects in the community. Over the course of the year, members educate themselves about community issues, identify a specific social cause on which to focus, and select one non-profit organization to receive the Giving Circle's annual gift.
Seacoast Women's Giving Circle founder Anne Rouse Sudduth explains, "After studying the issues of affordable housing and homelessness, our members decided to invest in Families First because of its comprehensive approach. The Health Care for the Homeless Program's staff tend to our community's most vulnerable people, offering them immediate relief from medical problems and helping them to rebuild their lives."
The Health Care for the Homeless Program provides primary medical care, including routine physicals and prenatal care, to homeless individuals at the Families First facility in Portsmouth and on two mobile health care vans that visit local shelters, soup kitchens and other sites frequented by homeless people. The program is not only for people living in shelters or on the streets, but also for anyone living in temporary housing, including those "sofa-surfing" at a friend's house or living in a campground or a winter rental.
The Giving Circle's gift enabled Families First to hire a second care coordinator for the Health Care for the Homeless Program. According to Helen Taft, Executive Director of Families First, "Oftentimes, the care coordinator is the key to linking homeless families and individuals with the free or low cost community services that can get them back in permanent housing. Whether it's helping enroll a client in the food stamp program or providing a sleeping bag and warm socks, the care coordinator plays a crucial role." She added, "The Giving Circle's gift is a welcome endorsement of our program and provides much needed funding in these tough economic times."
The Seacoast Women's Giving Circle (www.seacoastwomengive.org) is part of a growing national trend. More than 12,000 Americans are members of ‘giving circles,' and collectively these groups have poured nearly $100 million into communities nationwide, the majority since 2000, according to New Ventures in Philanthropy. In addition to pooling charitable donations, some groups, like the Seacoast Women's Giving Circle, also engage in volunteer action campaigns and fundraising events. In September, the Seacoast Women's Giving Circle launched "Turn the Key. Be Idle Free," a public awareness campaign to reduce unnecessary vehicle idling at more than 15 local schools. In 2007, the Giving Circle awarded its first gift of $7,000 to the Conservation Law Foundation, following a year focused on environmental issues.
Families First Health and Support Center, the Seacoast's community health center, provides a broad range of health and family support services to individuals and families, regardless of ability to pay. Services include primary, prenatal and oral health care; parenting classes, parent support groups and family programs; home visiting for families facing special challenges; and mobile health care for people who are homeless. For more information, call 603-422-8208, or visit www.FamiliesFirstSeacoast.org.
Families First Health and Support Center
603-422-8208 ext. 141