Nurses make house calls for homeless

( At homeless camps around Grand Rapids, nurses on Wednesday made house calls on the homeless.

“It is sad and it breaks my heart to know that this does exist, and that we can maybe do a little more work to kind of end it,” said Rochelle Sather, manager of the Heartside Health Clinic in Grand Rapids.

Sather worked with a registered nurse, four nursing students and a pair of volunteers on Wednesday, making the rounds

They started at the North Camp, a collection of about a dozen shacks in Walker. 

“Being out here, clearly today, I didn’t even know where I was,” Sather said.

They checked the blood pressure and pulse of about a half-dozen men and a woman at North Camp. And they questioned them about their health.

The men and women at these camps live far from the Heartside Health Clinic, which is at Wealthy Street and South Division Avenue. There, they can get free, federally funded health care. They can also get referred for free dental work and vision care.

Among their patients on Wednesday was a man named Cookie, who built a chalet at North Camp last fall.

He said he has high blood pressure, a bad back, allergies, acid reflux, needs dental work and needs new glasses.

“My glasses broke, and I found these in the Dumpster,” he said, pointing out a pair of glasses.

But for medical care, he said, he goes to the emergency room at Butterworth Hospital.

“When was the last time you went to the emergency room?” he was asked.

“About three-and-a-half months ago,” he responded. “I was having trouble breathing.”

He said he plans to ride his bike to Heartside Health Center on Thursday.

“We need all the help we can get down here,” Cookie said. “We don’t have a lot of people coming down here that are interested in us and want to help us.”

Not far away, the health care providers found several men living at the so-called South Camp — one man apparently passed out in a tent.

Many of the homeless said they weren’t aware of the Heartside Health Center.

“To hear people tell us they didn’t know we were there, it kind of breaks my heart,” said Sather. “It makes me feel a need to be out here a little more often.”