*Original story available on BG Daily News. Please visit http://www.bgdailynews.com/news/hotel-inc-uses-grant-to-host-health-fair-at-riverwalk/article_f0aba2cb-743f-518f-b6c7-7536285fad83.html to be taken directly to the story.
By LAUREL WILSON The Daily News
Thomas Wheeler of Bowling Green is grateful for HOTEL INC’s homeless outreach, which has provided him with meals, blankets, clothes and basic health services.
“They’ve done a lot for me,” he said. “They’ve been excellent.”
Thanks to a grant from WellCare of Kentucky, HOTEL INC hosted a health fair at the Riverwalk on Tuesday, which provided Wheeler and others who are homeless or precariously housed with services including health screenings, flu shots, blood work, dental care and vision tests.
“We’ve always had a medical component to our Tuesday homeless outreach, but a grant opportunity with WellCare of Kentucky has allowed us to expand our street medicine,” said Rhondell Miller, executive director of HOTEL INC – an acronym for Helping Others Through Extending Love in the Name of Christ.
Each Tuesday when HOTEL INC volunteers bring resources to the homeless, nurses help check blood pressure, provide prescription assistance or make medical referrals, she said.
But the grant has allowed HOTEL INC to take things further by connecting homeless or precariously housed people directly with health services, Miller said. Since receiving the grant in July, HOTEL INC has helped 25 people get health insurance through Kynect, the state’s health care exchange.
The grant lasts through December. Miller hopes it will pave the way for other grants that will allow HOTEL INC to keep expanding its street medicine outreach.
“We hope that by showing the need for street medicine, more grant opportunities will open,” she said.
Miller and HOTEL INC volunteer Ashleigh Stiles, who coordinates the street medicine program, attended training in June at the Street Medicine Institute in Pittsburgh to learn more about bringing health services to Bowling Green’s homeless population.
“As long as there are people in the streets and under the bridge, there will always be a need for health care in a different manner, so we’re trying to meet those needs and get them connected to the services they need,” Stiles said.
For Tuesday’s health fair, HOTEL INC partnered with a number of community organizations, including the The Medical Center Emergency Medical Services, the Barren River District Health Department, Kroger pharmacy, LifeSkills, the Bowling Green chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill and nursing students from Western Kentucky University.
Matt Atkinson, an adjunct nursing instructor at WKU, said volunteering at the health fair shows nursing students “there’s more out in the community than just working in a hospital.”
“Nursing is the profession of compassion, and what better way to demonstrate your compassion than volunteering your time to help out people in need,” he said.
WKU nursing student Savannah Williams, a senior from Bowling Green, found it rewarding to help at the health fair. “It definitely shows you a lot of the population that you’re going to be seeing in the hospital when you’re a nurse,” she said.
Thomas Wheeler of Bowling Green has his blood drawn for testing by Registered Nurse Kenny Seaver (Institute for Rural Health’s PRN) at Hotel Inc's Street Medicine Health Fair on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014 in Bowling Green. (Austin Anthony/Daily News)