GVSU, nonprofits launch initiative to aid homeless youth

man, woman standing in nurse station
Mark Contreras and Jamie Hendricks stand in the nurse station at HQ. The two nurse practitioners dedicate part of their work week to provide care for HQ members.
Image credit - Valerie Wojciechowski
three women standing, talking
Jen Hsu-Bishop, director of the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center, (center) chats with participants at the event.
Image credit - Valerie Wojciechowski
two men talking
Samuel Jones, lead therapist for Wisdom Center Counseling Services, greets a man during the event. Wisdom Center is one of the core partners of the CHI.
Image credit - Valerie Wojciechowski
white board
A white board at HQ.
Image credit - Valerie Wojciechowski

Grand Valley teamed with area nonprofits to officially launch a health initiative December 12 in an effort to interrupt the cycle of youth homelessness.

Shandra Steininger, co-founder and executive director of HQ called the Comprehensive Health Initiative (CHI) a hub of resources housed at HQ, a drop-in center for teens and young adults who are experiencing unstable housing or homelessness. She said CHI will provide hundreds of youth with access to primary health care, health system navigation, holistic therapy and substance abuse intervention. 

The core partners with HQ are 3:11 Youth Housing, which provides housing to youth experiencing homelessness; GVSU Family Health Center, operated by the Kirkhof College of Nursing; the Wisdom Center, which provides counseling services; and Health Net of West Michigan, which provides health system navigation services.

CHI received grant funding in excess of $400,000 over three years from the Steelcase Foundation, Michigan Health Endowment Fund, Herman Miller Cares, Frey Foundation and Mars Hills Bible Church.

During the launch event at HQ, 320 State St. SE, Steininger said as state and federal funding for nonprofits has decreased over the years, it became clear a one-stop shop of providers for homeless youth was needed. She drew in partners who would dedicate time at HQ to build relationships with teens and young adults and provide assistance.

"We still have youth who think sleeping outside at night is their best option, so we used a model of building a resource hub with providers who would build intentional relationships with our members," Steininger said.

Mark Contreras, nurse practitioner at the GVSU Family Health Center, is one of two providers who have regular hours at HQ. The Family Health Center, 72 Sheldon Blvd. SE, serves the GVSU community and many adults who live in the city's Heartside district.

"We've learned from caring for this marginalized population that navigating the health care system for them is complex," Contreras said. "They can't purchase a prescription that's $200 or go across town for a referral if they don't have a car."

The FHC nurse practitioners employ the same relationship-building techniques at HQ that they use with patients at the Sheldon Street center. 

"I'm a big advocate that if we're asking a patient questions, we better be able to do something about it," he said. "If I ask an HQ member if they have insurance and they don't know, I can say, 'Let me introduce you to my friend at Health Net who can help.'"

Steininger is confident assisting HQ members with mental and physical health care needs plays a key role in helping them find stable housing. She said 40 percent of adults who are homeless first experienced homelessness as a teen or youth.

More information about CHI is online.




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