HCH Day 2022

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AHCH Celebrates Health Care for the Homeless Day 2022

The History of Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless

From its beginnings as a foundation-funded demonstration program, Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless (AHCH) has been distinguished from many other homeless programs by its balanced commitments to direct service, policy advocacy, consumer involvement, and ending homelessness. In December 1983, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Pew Charitable Trusts, with the support of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, announced a joint $25 million five-year program to fund a new initiative, the Health Care for the Homeless Program. Through a competitive process, 19 initial demonstration projects across the U.S. were funded. AHCH was one of them and formally established in 1985 in Albuquerque, NM. AHCH has remained the only health care organization in Central New Mexico dedicated exclusively to providing services to people who are experiencing homelessness. An Airstream trailer served as a well supplied mobile clinic that provided health care at various locations around Albuquerque where people experiencing homelessness were likely to congregate. 2020 marked the 35th anniversary of AHCH and the other 18 initial demonstration projects across the U.S.

For the HCH movement, housing is health care and both are fundamental human rights. For 37 years, housing and health care are still at the core of our movement and the AHCH mission. In the City of Albuquerque, a minimum of 1,311 people reported experiencing homelessness on Monday, January 31st, 2022 per the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness Point-In-Time Count, and per Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless (AHCH) and community best estimates, at least 16,000 persons – approximately 2.3% of Bernalillo County residents – will experience homelessness during the year.

Spreading Positivity at AHCH

AHCH Board President, John Johnson, addressed the AHCH staff for Staff Appreciation Day: "Thank you for making a significant difference and positive impact in the lives and health of our community members experiencing homelessness.  Your compassion, commitment, and determination brings joy and hope to our friends at a time when they need it most.   The beauty and strength of AHCH is YOU!  We are fortunate to have this team of professionals who bring their best to the organization and community every day.  On behalf of the Board of Directors, we join the AHCH family in raising our voices to end homelessness.”

Hear from AHCH’s Fund Development Committee Member, Molly Doland, about how she got and stayed involved with our organization to help people who are homeless: “I had known about AHCH for a long time but never paid much attention until I saw homeless people sleeping in a nearby park. I greeted some and some responded and others didn’t. But It was cold outside and it suddenly hit me that these people were my neighbors, living a block away, and they needed things. So I ordered a bunch of stuff from Amazon that the website said they needed and dropped them off at AHCH. The next time I did it a young woman at AHCH suggested I take the boxes to HopeWorks because they had more use for them. I did that and got interested in HopeWorks. But what really struck me was that these were organizations working together for the same population and not competing with each other like other non-profits I have worked with. I also revised my thinking about how best to use what money I have to support people in need. I just decided I can’t change the world but maybe I can help change my own city. I still donate to other organizations that serve other populations but my priority is solidly focused on Albuquerque."

Health Care for the Homeless Day

People experience homelessness and poverty not only in the metro area of our state, but also in regions like Farmington, Taos, and Las Cruces. The New Mexico HCH caucus includes AHCH and First Nations Community HealthSource in Albuquerque; El Centro Family Health in Espanola; La Familia Medical Center and Presbyterian Medical Services, Santa Fe and a service area that includes San Juan County, and Amador Health Center in Las Cruces. This week is National Health Center Week from August 7 to 13, 2022, an annual celebration with the goal of raising awareness about the mission and accomplishments of America’s health centers. AHCH is leading the online activities to bring awareness to our communities about the impactful work the New Mexico HCH caucus makes available to people who need us most.

Collectively, health centers serve 1.3 million individuals experiencing homelessness each year, with about 1 million of these individuals served by the nearly 295 health centers that receive health care for the homeless funding. In New Mexico, health centers saw a total of 336,909 patients and 16,744 were seen in an HCH clinic for persons experiencing homelessness (Source: AHCH Needs Assessment, 2020).

Currently, New Mexico has established a network of 5 health care for the homeless projects. Jenny Metzler, AHCH Chief Executive Officer said: “While we lament the continuing crisis of homelessness and subsequent relevance of the Health Care for the Homeless model, we also celebrate and advocate this comprehensive, person-centered, integrated and accessible model of health care. We’ve long said, since we collaborated in the founding of the HCH movement in 1985, that it is a good and necessary model of care -- for anyone. For now, we need to exist. And until our communities eliminate homelessness and shape health systems to serve anyone equitably and well, regardless of income, housing status, race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and ability, we will work to the highest standards of care and innovation for the population without homes. It has been tremendously energizing to have 5 other Federally Qualified Health Centers in New Mexico who share this commitment and that are also designated as Health Care for the Homeless providers. We feel the solidarity and support and shared learning opportunities across this “HCH Caucus” and the New Mexico Primary Care Association leadership and are energized by the possibilities it presents for improving the health and well being of those who live in this state and who are unhoused.”

Health Care for the Homeless Day is a time celebrate the work being done at health care for the homeless clinics and to advocate for policies that end homelessness by providing opportunities into housing and comprehensive integrated health care. Join us in celebrating and follow announcements and updates on social media by using the hashtags #NHCW2022 and #ValueCHCs.


*Special thanks to Uriel Ibarra, our summer intern from the University of Norte Dame, for filming and editing the video production at the top of this blog. 


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