HAVERHILL — Health care for Haverhill’s homeless and others in need has come to GAR Park.
In addition to the weekly bagged lunches that are distributed by volunteers with Merrimack Valley Hope Mission and Common Ground Ministry and hot meals served by local church groups at the park, a new mobile health service is now offered Wednesdays and Fridays through a collaboration with the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center.
“This is an important addition to our services and a wonderful collaboration with Greater Lawrence Family Health Center,” said Joseph D’Amore, founder of Merrimack Valley Hope Mission. “We all share a common vision to directly deliver services to homeless and marginalized populations and our important work is validated with this critical new component.”
Every Friday for the last three years, volunteers with Merrimack Valley Hope Mission gather at the western edge of GAR Park near the Korean War Memorial, where they set up folding tables to distribute 150 to 200 bagged lunches prepared by local churches, families, scouting troops and others. Every lunch includes freshly prepared sandwiches, along with snacks such as potato chips and fresh fruit, and also bottled water.
Now the mobile health center is visiting the park Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Wednesdays from about 4 to 6 p.m., D’Amore said. This program started Friday and served several people.
As D’Amore got to know some of the people he and his volunteers serve Fridays, he’s learned that many do not see a doctor regularly and rarely undergo general health screenings for issues such as open wounds, high blood pressure, untreated infections and even untreated broken bones.
“Some need immunizations, as well,” he said. “Some of those we serve have no health care insurance, not even Mass Health due to a variety of reasons such as not renewing their coverage.”
To address these and other health issues, D’Amore used his connections with the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, who he’s had a relationship with since the summer of 2014 when he worked with staff members from that health center to assist homeless people living under the Casey Bridge.
“Because I also work with Ron Mills, director of Common Ground Ministry, he asked me what my most critical need was at GAR Park. So I told him I’d love for the mobile health clinic to visit the park on Fridays, during our bagged lunch distributions,” D’Amore said.
He said Mills’ drop-in center at Common Grounds on Winter Street operates seven days a week, serving the same population that his outreach group serves.
“Ron contacted Rafael DeLaCruz, site operations manager for the family health center, who arranged to bring the mobile clinic to Haverhill each Wednesday and Friday,” D’Amore said. “The mobile clinic is funded through numerous sources, including federal grants and the state’s Department of Public Health.
“I met a nurse practitioner who has been doing outreach for many years in Lawrence and is looking forward to doing outreach in Haverhill, and I met the driver and a medical assistant,” D’Amore said.
Anyone interested in producing and serving bagged lunches on Fridays is asked to contact Joseph D’Amore at 617-791-2218.