Mercy Care: healing Atlanta’s homeless

Mercy Care, a Community Health Center that is specifically funded to serve people experiencing homelessness, is working to make COVID-19 testing and vaccines available to people who are experiencing homelessness and those in low-income areas with limited access. Courtesy of Mercy Care

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Mercy Care, a Community Health Center that is specifically funded to serve people experiencing homelessness, is working to make COVID-19 testing and vaccines available to people who are experiencing homelessness and those in low-income areas with limited access. Courtesy of Mercy Care

Mercy Care was officially founded in 1985, but it really started in 1880 when The Sisters of Mercy founded Atlanta’s first hospital after the Civil War. In 1979 Saint Joseph’s Hospital moved to Dunwoody from downtown Atlanta and many nurses, physicians and other hospital staff wanted to stay connected to the patients they’d been working with.

“They voluntarily took to the streets of Atlanta and used their healing skills to serve those in soup kitchens and shelters,” said Diana Lewis, the Mercy Care marketing and advocacy manager. “In this compassionate and inspiring mission were the seeds of today’s Mercy Care.”

In 2012 as the organization moved out from under the hospital umbrella. Mercy Care met the needs of nearly 16,000 patients through over 62,000 visits in 2019, and when the coronavirus pandemic began to affect Atlanta it created more digital services and started working to help vulnerable communities through the pandemic.

“When COVID hit, we very quickly moved to offering COVID testing in shelters, and once available, vaccines to our staff, patients and the community,” said Lewis.

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At a recent back-to-school event on Saturday, July 24, Mercy Care gave away 750 backpacks full of school supplies for families in need and offered COVID-19 vaccinations for those 12 years of age and older.

At a recent back-to-school event on Saturday, July 24, Mercy Care gave away 750 backpacks full of school supplies for families in need and offered COVID-19 vaccinations for those 12 years of age and older.

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At a recent back-to-school event on Saturday, July 24, Mercy Care gave away 750 backpacks full of school supplies for families in need and offered COVID-19 vaccinations for those 12 years of age and older.

Mercy Care has seen a growing number of individuals and families that need to rely on its sliding fee scale based on household income to meet their healthcare needs. Seventy-seven percent of Mercy Care’s patients do not have insurance coverage.

“Our greatest need is keeping our services funded,” said Lewis. “Programs like Street Medicine earn the trust of those experiencing homelessness and often get them feeling better and eventually housed. Our Recuperative Care program takes in patients who have been discharged from the hospital but have no home to safely recuperate. Both programs are underfunded and could help a lot more people if fully funded.”


Who’s helping?

Mercy Care

Services: Mercy Care is a Federally Qualified Health Center, or a Community Health Center, that is specifically funded to serve people experiencing homelessness. It operates seven fixed and four mobile primary care medical clinics offering a variety of services including behavioral health, dental care, vision services, diagnostics, health education, case management, respite care, residential support services, Street Medicine and outreach.

Where to donate: Visit mercyatlanta.org.

How to get help: New patients can register at mercyatlanta.org/registration/ To make an appointment, call 678-843-8600. Walk-ins are welcome .

If you are involved in or know of an organization working to bring relief to the Atlanta community during the coronavirus pandemic OR you are with an organization with supplies that you don’t know where to donate, please email us at Shannon.n.Dominy@gmail.com.