Interfaith Emergency Services in Marion County hopes to begin offering expanded health services for homeless and low-income residents by early August in what was formerly the Ocala Women’s Center.
The shelter’s recent purchase of the women’s center means it can begin offering primary medical, dental and counseling services as part of the Hope Clinic, a nonprofit, free clinic for the county’s uninsured.
“We are providing a vital service to this community that gives the homeless and the underprivileged an opportunity to get medical care without being a burden on the community,” said Cindy Ann Grow, the founder of Hope Clinic.
Becky O’Connor, Interfaith’s director of ministries, said she is working closely with Grow to help get the facility ready for its expected Aug. 5 opening.
For the past year, Interfaith has provided limited health care from its facility on Northwest Second Street in Ocala through Three Angels Clinic, a group of medical professionals that have been seeing patients at Interfaith for free. Interfaith’s learning center has been serving as the intake office and the kitchen doubles as a makeshift exam room, said O’Connor.
Currently the makeshift clinic sees about 100 to 120 patients a month but plans to expand that number with more available time slots once the new clinic opens.
“We just quickly outgrew that,” Grow said. “Doctors were staying at the facility until 10 o’clock at night to try to see everyone so we realized very quickly that we needed additional space to expand our medical facility and this building is the perfect place because it joins both of our facilities.”
Interfaith has been around since 1983 and was the result of churches banding together to help the area homeless, said O’Connor.
Other churches in the area such as St. Mark’s United Methodist Church have similar health programs, such as Open Arms Village which offers medical checkups and mental health counseling for the homeless, but there’s nothing as extensive as what the new clinic plans to do.
The Hope Clinic runs completely from donations, grants, and volunteers. Grow, who is a medical doctor, said she plans to have one other primary care physician on site, along with other specialty physicians such as dentists and podiatrists.
“I think it’ll be great to have a central place that people can go to for medical, dental and mental health services,” said Laurie Whitaker the executive director of Open Arms Village at St. Marks.
With all the volunteers, the clinic will be able to treat patients for everything from cold symptoms to conducting minor surgeries at the facility.
“Over 60,000 people are uninsured in Marion County,” Grow said, “The community has really come together to make Hope Clinic work and wouldn’t be here without the support of everyone that’s been involved to help.”