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Homeless

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A large team of students from the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) joined the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County for the 2014 Homeless Count last night in an effort to ultimately reduce the incidence of homeless youth in the region.

The purpose of the annual homeless count, performed nationwide each year in the final 10 days of January, is to assess the number of homeless individuals and families in the region, in addition to gathering data pertaining to the age, mental health, race, veteran status, and incidence of domestic violence and substance abuse among this population.

Last night, the Coalition gathered more than 500 volunteers from 10 staging points across Greater Houston to canvass the region and survey area homeless.  The Homeless Count – a requirement of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) – is critical to the local Continuum of Care funding process, which brought more than $25 million to homeless assistance programs in Houston, Harris and Fort Bend Counties in 2012.

In last year’s “2013 Youth Count!” – a pilot project conducted in Houston and eight other national cities – the Coalition surveyed nearly 200 local unsheltered and sheltered youth aged 12 to 24.  One third of these respondents had children of their own and one in six females was currently pregnant.  The Homeless Youth Network of Houston/Harris County (HYN) board, based on information from local shelters and non-profits, believes the actual number of unstably housed youth is much greater.

Faced with these startling statistics, in addition to the exposure to homelessness at an urban university, a core group of UHD students has taken the initiative to join the city’s efforts in reducing homelessness, especially among Houston’s youth.  UHD undergraduates routinely pass homeless individuals seeking shelter nearby, and even become classmates with unsheltered or precariously housed fellow students.

This year, two student leaders, John Locke and Heather Strange, approached Noël Bezette-Flores, Ph.D., executive director of UHD’s Center for Public Service and Family Strengths (CPSFS), to explore how they could positively impact this underprivileged population.

Bezette-Flores, working with The University of Texas Health Science Center Houston and the University of Houston, also spearheads a large research project on homeless youth through CPSFS.  The HYN board recognized the need for this Homeless Youth Research Project and provided initial funding for its implementation through a partnership with the University of Houston Graduate

College of Social Work.  Through her efforts in this area, Bezette-Flores connected Locke and Strange with the Coalition’s 2014 Homeless Count and helped drive the University’s efforts with the initiative.

In addition to assisting with the unsheltered Homeless Count last night, UHD students also joined Coalition volunteers this morning to survey homeless youth at area shelters where young people congregate, including the Star of Hope, The HAY Center and Kinder Emergency Shelter programs – administered by Harris County Protective Services for Children and Adults – Covenant House and Youth Advocates.

“Ignoring the downtrodden who seek shelter near campus only contributes to the homelessness problem,” said Locke, a junior psychology major.  “As UHD students, it is incumbent upon us to take action and become a part of the homelessness solution.  Together, we can help make a difference by working to support them instead of turning a blind eye.”

Locke, and other students intent on reducing homelessness near campus, is recruiting fellow students to join their volunteer efforts at local homeless shelters, including the Montrose Grace Place and Food Not Bombs, among others.

“I applaud the passion and initiative taken by these undergraduates to work toward change and a resolution to homelessness in Houston,” said Bezette-Flores.  “Opportunities such as this one greatly broaden their perspectives, enabling them to see practical life outside of the classroom and ways in which they can provide their talents and time to contribute to the greater good.”

Based in part on the Coalition’s intervention since 2011, Houston has realized a 28 percent drop in the region’s homeless count and a 27 percent increase in transitioning the chronically homeless into permanent housing.

“The key to solving homelessness is understanding who is homeless,” said Gary Grier, project manager at the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County.  “The 2014 Homeless Count provides us with invaluable information we will use to tailor intervention programs and create lasting solutions for homeless adults, youth and families in Houston.”

About the University of Houston-Downtown:

UHD, founded in 1974, is one of four distinct universities in the University of Houston System, and is the second largest university in Houston and the 15th largest four-year, public university in Texas.  One of the most ethnically diverse universities in the country, UHD ranks 33rd nationally for graduating Hispanic students with bachelor’s degrees and 37th nationally for graduating African-American students with bachelor’s degrees.  Approximately 2,000 students graduate from UHD each year.  For more information about UHD, please visit www.uhd.edu.

About the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County:

The Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County is a non-profit 501(c) 3 organization that provides support to Houston area homeless service providers that work directly with the homeless. The Coalition provides its agency clients with research about Houston’s homeless population; advocates on behalf of homeless individuals; and supports service providers with a myriad of programs including the annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count; the management of a database of homeless people, Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS); Homeless Court and other support programs. For more information about the Coalition’s efforts, visit www.homelesshouston.org

Rythm and ShoesVFW Post 9182 is hosting Rhythm and Shoes, a music benefit for Homeless veterans in the Katy and Houston community will be held on November 9th, 2013 at Bryant’s Ice House in Katy TX. There will be 5 bands playing, a Live auction, poker run, and great food.

Come on down and let your hair down, get some great food, enjoy the music, and have some fun.

Please pass this along to everyone, the more the better.

Hope to see everyone there.

Grants Help Expand Pharmacy Services for the Homeless
Student and faculty volunteers from the University of Houston College of Pharmacy (UHCOP) received national recognition this summer for their work to expand essential health care services for Houston’s homeless population.

Bestowed by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), the Student Community Engaged Service Award is in recognition of the team’s ongoing activities through the Houston Outreach Medicine, Education and Social Services (HOMES) Clinic. An interprofessional, student-run clinic in downtown Houston, the clinic operates under the auspices of the nonprofit Healthcare for the Homeless-Houston (HHH), which was founded by Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) physician David Buck.

The HOMES Clinic is a collaboration of UHCOP, BCM, the UH Graduate College of Social Work and the Schools of Medicine and Public Health at UTHealth. The clinic has served more than 3,000 patients since it was launched in 2000.

The clinic is open every Sunday to ensure access to needed services on a day when most other health care providers are closed. This also reduces the use of hospital emergency rooms for non-life-threatening conditions.

Pharmacy faculty member David Wallace, student project leader Kim Anh Pham and pharmacy dean F. Lamar Pritchard recently received the award and grant monies totaling $16,000 at the AACP Annual Meeting in Chicago.

“I’m elated that the HOMES Clinic team is being acknowledged for serving the homeless community for more than a decade,” said Pham, who also was appointed as the clinic’s first executive director from the UH College of Pharmacy. “Being a part of the HOMES Clinic has not only helped me in deciding what I want to do in my pharmacy career, but it also gave me insight to the needs of the homeless population. I’ve gained a deeper understanding of how homelessness could happen to any of us as a result of life-changing events or circumstances that are often beyond a person’s control.”

Pham said the grant monies primarily will be used to restock and expand the on-site pharmacy’s supply of common medications, including inhalers for asthma and other lung conditions, antibiotics, vaccines and psychiatric drugs.

Serving in a supervisory role over pharmacy students, Wallace has been a fixture at HOMES almost every Sunday since the clinic opened.

“It’s very rewarding to see the students grow not only in their technical and clinical knowledge and skills, but also in their empathy and awareness of the complex medical, mental health and social needs within this patient population,” Wallace said.

Pritchard said the HOMES Clinic is a prime example of the impact of interprofessional teams in providing basic health services to the underserved through collaborative education and practice models.

“One of the most critical health care challenges we face nationwide is poor medication adherence, with an estimated total annual cost upward of $300 billion due to increased hospitalizations and other factors,” Pritchard said. “The HOMES Clinic and safety net providers such as HHH play a vital role in providing basic health care when few other options are available, preventing potentially serious complications resulting from interruptions in drug therapies.”

Recognizing student-led community engagement projects, the four national awards given each year are intended to encourage student pharmacists and faculty to design and build programs of community-engaged service learning, delivering consumer education about medication use, expanding access to affordable medications and improving public health. In addition to the UHCOP, the other recipients were Butler University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, the University of Hawaii at Hilo Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy and Midwestern University Chicago College of Pharmacy.

For more information on the AACP Student Community Engaged Service Award, visit http://www.aacp.org/career/awards/Pages/studentcommunityengagedserviceawards.aspx. For more information on the HOMES Clinic, visit http://www.homeless-healthcare.org/homes.html.

About the University of Houston
The University of Houston is a Carnegie-designated Tier One public research university recognized by The Princeton Review as one of the nation’s best colleges for undergraduate education. UH serves the globally competitive Houston and Gulf Coast Region by providing world-class faculty, experiential learning and strategic industry partnerships. Located in the nation’s fourth-largest city, UH serves more than 40,700 students in the most ethnically and culturally diverse region in the country. For more information about UH, visit the university’s newsroom at http://www.uh.edu/news-events/.

About the UH College of Pharmacy
For more than 65 years, the University of Houston College of Pharmacy (UHCOP) has shaped aspiring pharmacists, scientists and researchers. The college offers graduate degrees in pharmacy administration, pharmacology and pharmaceutics, a professional pharmacy degree, combined professional/graduate degrees, and post-graduate residency and fellowship programs. With facilities on the UH campus and in the Texas Medical Center, the UHCO is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.

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