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Harris Health Adds Three New Mobile Units to its Homeless Outreach Fleet

HOUSTON (Feb. 1, 2024) — Three new 35-foot mobile health units will soon roll out across Harris County streets as part of Harris Health System's Health Care for the Homeless Program. The mobile units will allow Harris Health to visit more homeless individuals who gather in encampments and locations outside of Loop 610.

A ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony was held Jan. 25 for new mobile units adding to the existing four units that include a self-contained dental unit. The ceremony was attended by about 75 people that included city of Houston and Harris County elected officials, as well as staff and community supporters.

The homeless mobile fleet enables Harris Health to expand its homeless services and projected to provide up to 12,000 additional patient visits a year for homeless individuals. An initial focus for the team will be individuals living in the Greenspoint and FM 1960 areas, says Tracey Burdine, director, Health Care for the Homeless, Harris Health.

“The homeless population, not just here in Houston, is a very vulnerable population, and they have a host of needs and challenges," she adds. “With our mobile health units, we'll be able to not only assess them, screen them for diseases like diabetes or heart disease, but also provide them with medical care and treatment in one stop that has laboratory, medications and other social services."
Each unit is equipped with either a one- or two-exam room configuration within a comfy 300-square-foot space. The units offer primary, pediatric and maternal health care and include child/adult immunizations, HIV/Hepatitis C testing, sexual trauma care, diabetes screening, mental health counseling and prenatal/postnatal maternal care.

“Our goal is to be wherever our patients are, either in person or virtually," says Jennifer Small, AuD, executive vice president and administrator, Ambulatory Care Services, Harris Health. “With the expansion of our program, we're enhancing the medical, dental and a host of wrap-around services for our homeless population. Now, we're able to reach these individuals across more areas of Harris County."

During the dedication, Harris County Commissioner Lesley Briones praised Harris Health's effort to coordinate services for those in need with 'a sense of urgency' to support all patients including the homeless.

“You have made substantial progress in your work serving the homeless for the past 37 years, and it's been remarkable, and I thank you," she told the crowd during the dedication ceremony. “But what I love about Harris Health is the constant hustle. The constant asking, 'Are we doing enough? Are we doing it as effectively as possible? What more can we be doing? And how can we leverage technology, new ideas, new outreach, to reach those who need us the most?'"

The mobile units cost $1.2 million and are funded by Harris Health and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The units are expected to hit the roads in the next couple of weeks.