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Texas Health is bringing free monthly health screenings to people at Denton Community Shelter

Texas Health Resources

“We care. You are special. We value you.”

These are words that people who experience homelessness don’t hear often enough, Alva Santos, the chief operations officer at Our Daily Bread, Together with Monsignor King Outreach Center, said in a news release from Texas Health Resources.

About 1,200 people experience homelessness in a year in Denton County, with 46% experiencing it for the first time, according to United Way’s 2022 Denton County Homelessness Data report.

Advocates have claimed that the number of people experiencing homelessness is much higher.

“One of the most critical first steps in homelessness recovery is self-worth and realizing that you are important and valued,” Santos said.

Santos said that people who experience homelessness are now hearing those words at Texas Health Resources’ onsite mobile health screenings, part of the hospital system’s Wellness for Life program, at the Denton Community Shelter. Our Daily Bread operates the Denton shelter.

Texas Health Resources announced that the program, which had been operating for about a year at the Arlington Life Shelter, was expanding to two additional shelters: the Denton Community Shelter and the Salvation Army’s Fort Worth shelter.

The program offers services including mammograms, Pap smears and prostate and colon screening kits to people served by the shelters.

Catherine Oliveros, Texas Health’s vice president of Community Health Improvement, said its mission “is to improve the health of the people in the communities we serve, and that is especially important for our most vulnerable populations like those without homes.

“By teaming up with shelters, we’re working together to bring these important services to men and women who may have gone years without these important screenings,” Oliveros said.

Lisa Rose, manager of the mobile health program, told the Denton Record-Chronicle that this year they plan to offer screenings more often at the Arlington shelter, from quarterly to every other month. They’ll also be offering screenings for men.

In Denton, Rose said they will be offering checkups and screenings for men and women on a monthly basis. They also plan to expand to other parts of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, such as Dallas and Collin counties.

“We’re starting off slowly,” Rose said. “Our first obstacle was the follow-up care to overcome.”

The issue with follow-up care had to do with the permanent address problem that those without homes face. It is difficult to contact them after they complete bloodwork or screenings, but Rose pointed out that “by working with the shelter’s care coordinator, we now have additional assistance and tools to reconnect with a patient.”

Funding for the program, Rose said, involves grants, while a majority is raised via donors who donate to the Texas Health Resources Foundation.

Texas Health’s news release highlighted one story of a person helped by the program.

Verna Moten, 58, completed a woman’s exam in December at the Salvation Army’s Mabee Social Services Center in Fort Worth. It had been 25 years since she last had one.

“I’m so grateful that I can get this done,” Moten said. “You know how long it’s been when you don’t have health insurance? It’s hard.”

Earlier this year, the Denton Community Shelter also received a $325,000 grant from Texas Health to collaborate with Health Services of North Texas, a nonprofit community health center.

The grant money made it possible for the Denton Community Shelter to hire a part-time licensed vocational nurse and care coordinator to offer primary medical care and support services to shelter residents.

“Wellness and access to quality medical care are essential to healthy independent living,” Wendy McGee, executive director of Our Daily Bread, said in the release.