Thursday, April 27, 2017

Dental Care Partners

By Christy Houghton

Who likes to go to the dentist? Nobody I know! But Greater Seattle Cares (GSC) and Medical Teams International (MTI) have a new partner that is helping make that visit to the dentist a little easier for residents of Tent City 3 and other formal homeless encampments.

It’s 8:00 a.m. on March 22nd, and the door of the UW Fisheries Science Building opens, admitting a volunteer who escorts a man walking with a cane. A black Lab with a graying muzzle ambles over for a polite sniff. In the middle of the great hall, a small fluffy white Maltese sits near three reclining dental chairs. Open-mouthed patients lie in the chairs, each tended by a small team of dental students with a faculty advisor. Behind them, a long table is laid out with dental supplies, while on the other side a separate room has been designated for X-rays. Down the hall, other dental students are checking patients in, helping them fill out paperwork, or sitting to chat with them while they wait to be seen. Outside, the big red MTI Mobile Dental Van is parked next to Tent City 3, accommodating two more third-year dental students and another of the dental school’s faculty. This is Husky Health Bridge at work.

The little white dog is mine,” says Brandon Walker, a former U.S. Marine turned dental student. “Earlier this morning, Teddy sat on a patient’s lap during her whole procedure.” Brandon is the “Media and PR guy” for Husky Health Bridge, a nonprofit formed last October by a group of first-year UW dental students who wanted to extend dental services to underserved groups in the area. He and a faculty advisor even brought their dogs today to help ensure the best possible dental experience for people who may be pretty scared after not having seen a dentist in a while.

This is the second time that Husky Health Bridge, MTI and GSC have organized a dental clinic for Tent City 3 while it has been hosted at the UW. Justin, a camp resident, had a molar extracted by this same group just one month earlier. “They were very nice. I was nervous because they were students, but they were very knowledgeable,” he says. Today, they’ve given him fluoride toothpaste and a soft brush to help with the sensitivity in his mouth while the area around the extraction heals.

Greater Seattle Cares has collaborated with MTI for several years, bringing free dental care to the residents of Tent City 3. MTI provides the mobile dental van, which has two dental chairs, onsite x-rays, and some advanced dental equipment. Usually, MTI also finds volunteer dentists to serve on the van. Greater Seattle Cares serves as liaison with the camp and assures a constant flow of patients through the clinic. And this year, Husky Health Bridge (HHB) joined the partnership, bringing enough dental equipment and volunteers to treat another three people at a time. Even more importantly, HHB has committed to “adopting” Tent City 3, providing volunteers to bring the MTI dental van to the camp, wherever it is, on a monthly basis.

For today, however, this dental services partnership is closing up shop. HHB volunteers pack up the mobile dental chairs, the dental equipment, the generator and the extra supplies. The MTI Clinic Manager ties down everything in the Mobile Dental Van with bungee cords and maneuvers the huge red vehicle carefully out of the parking lot, heading back to the MTI headquarters in Redmond. The GSC Dental Program Coordinator secures all the dental charts for storage in a locked filing cabinet in her garage. “All together, the Husky Health Bridge/MTI/GSC team saw 20 patients today, many with complex dental problems,” she reports. “Though the clinic was supposed to close at 2 PM, the volunteers have all stayed until well after 5 PM in order to make sure that every patient could be seen. This kind of commitment really sends a message to people living in homelessness that they are important, that they matter.”

And that can make coming to the dentist not so scary after all.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

What’s New with GSC?

Innovations, Dental Clinics, and a Blog. 

Residents at Camp United We Stand are working on a new type of shelter made from Styrofoam insulation material. These shelters, called BOBs (Built On Blessings), are easy to build, relatively inexpensive, and collapsible for moving. Once tarped, they are warmer and drier than a tent, with room to stand up and with a lockable door. The camp is experimenting with these to see if they might replace tents. If you have a chance, stop by camp and ask to see one.

Oh, by the way, CUWS is moving to Haller Lake United Methodist Church on May 13th. They would really appreciate any help with the move, whether it’s a pick-up truck, a delivery of food and water, or strong arms to help load and unload. Put it on your calendar!

Camp Second Chance is now officially sponsored by the City of Seattle, and is growing rapidly. The City has moved the fence back and laid down gravel to give the camp more room to grow. They will soon be hooking up electricity and providing a more stable source of water. Pretty good for the little camp that could!

Tent City 3 has moved to private land at the corner of S 129th St. and Martin Luther King Way. We half-jokingly call this site “Valley Forge,” as there is no water or electricity but lots of mud. Efforts to get some wood chips donated have stalled out. With your financial support, however, we have been able to provide gasoline for the camp generator and water, at least to some degree, as well as the usual food, clothing and toiletry donations.
What this camp really needs is a new host! Think your church might be interested? If so, contact SHARE at There’s no commitment in just learning what’s involved in hosting. You can also read about what a wonderfully unifying experience this can be on our website.
Husky Health Bridge, the student-run UW Dental School non-profit that organized two dental clinics for the camp while it was at UW, has decided to adopt the Tent City 3! They have a clinic planned next at Camp Second Chance on April 29th with Medical Teams International and then will continue to provide services on a monthly basis to Tent City 3 after that.

Camp Unity Eastside is currently at St. Jude’s Catholic Church in Redmond. The camp is pretty small right now – just 16 residents – but St. Jude’s is also supporting a “safe parking” program right next door. This program gives people who are living out of their cars a legal place to park them. Never heard of this program? Here’s a really helpful article that explains it.

In other news, Greater Seattle Cares has a new blogger! Christy Houghton is a volunteer in Edmonds who visits the camps every couple of weeks and writes about her experiences. Follow her on our website or on our Facebook page.

Questions? Concerns? Like to ask a question, volunteer, or make a donation? Feel free to check out our website or contact us at

Thank you all for your support and especially your big hearts and generous spirits in doing what you can to help those experiencing homelessness :) 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Ordinary people helping others

Recently Greater Seattle Cares volunteer David Baum did a radio interview with Mind over Matters of KEXP 90.3 FM.

David is the founder of his own non-profit called Rumblecrash, and in this article he talks about his work with homeless communities in Seattle.

Take a listen!