RICHMOND, Va. -- Katelynn Percy has called the Days Inn on Midlothian Turnpike her temporary home.
“Sometimes your ends don’t meet and as hard as you try you can’t get them to meet,” Percy said while holding her 10-month-old son, Garrett. “This morning my card was overdrawn $225, and my paycheck hit and it’s still negative $65.”
For the last month, the single mother and her baby have stayed at the Southside hotel with the assistance of Homeward, the nonprofit organization that serves as the coordinating agency for homeless services in the Greater Richmond region. The non-profit rented free rooms for families and single people without a place of their own during the pandemic.
Health professionals like the Daily Planet Health Services set up outside in the hotel’s parking lot to give back on Wednesday.
“A lot of families we are encountering that we are not expecting, so we are able to bring a lot of people in care who are outside of care for quite some time,” said Daily Planet Director of Development Sarah Tunner.
Tunner and her employees often bring health and mental resources straight to the homeless population on the streets.
“Thinking about all the homeless encampments you may be familiar with or seeing people on the side of the roads with signs,” she recalled. “Our outreach team is able to go out and meet them, establish that relationship, seek that trust and help them get into healthcare.”
They announced a major gift during the health fair. The insurance company, UnitedHealthcare, donated a $250,000 grant and a new mobile health clinic to the city’s non-profit in order to help the homeless population.
“I live in the city of Richmond, and this is my tribe. These are my people. This is my community,” stated Tameeka Smith, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Virginia.”
Smith knows sacrifice firsthand.
“I understand what it feels like to be a paycheck from need and a paycheck away from being homeless,” she explained. “I was a young mother on Medicaid myself and I understand all too well what it feels like to be on the receiving end of the coin.”
Smith helped allocate the large funds to the Daily Planet to help them continue helping those who need help the most. UnitedHealthcare donated the mobile health van, so volunteers and employees don’t have to use their personal vehicles.
“This is one way for us to make sure an often forgot about population gets access to the services that they are due and that are right for them,” Smith said.
Along with providing COVID-19 vaccinations and testing, the fair provided preventative care screenings, activities for kids and Richmond-based Feed More distributed ready-to-eat food items.
Working together to identify the need to reach homeless community residents who were displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic, UnitedHealthcare awarded DPHS with a $250,000 grant to close gaps in care, address health equity challenges, and encourage a greater positive health impact in the Richmond community. UnitedHealthcare also provided a $25,000 vehicle donation.
The UnitedHealthcare grant will provide the initial funding to support two part-time nurse practitioners, two part-time medical assistants, and a program coordinator, all of whom will participate in mobile outreach efforts.
These teams will work to increase preventive services including cancer screenings, vaccines, HIV screenings, Narcan distribution and dental hygiene while enhancing connections to resources that address housing, food access, education, and economic security.
To find out more information about the services provided by the Daily Planet, go to their website.