What convinced you that you needed to go back to Health Care for the Homeless?

It's funny, I wasn't really looking. I still had some ties and I ran into someone who worked there, and they told me: "Hey, we're opening this clinic. We might be looking for somebody part-time." So I gave a call, and that was that. I said, "Wow, that sounds really exciting."

How have things changed for the population you serve since the housing bust and recession?

Oh my God, it's horrible. Let me tell you what we're seeing. There's not nearly enough emergency beds for families and children. … We're meeting whole families sleeping on bus stops.

We're also seeing a whole lot more single fathers with their children who have nowhere to go because there's nothing for them.

Why? All the family shelters are for women with children?

Mm-hmm. It gets a little bit worse, too. [At] all the family shelters for women … 14-, 15-year-old boys are not allowed. … You can see the problems in congregate living, with little girls — I don't have to spell that out.

What do you like best about the work you do?

Getting to meet people where they are and bringing health care to where they are. Giving people a little glimmer of hope, you know? Sometimes, I'm not going to fix their problem, but I can bear witness to their life, and that can mean volumes, just having someone witness what you're going through.

That can be stressful, can't it?

I try to do a lot of things for my own self-care.

I spent three and a half years getting my master's degree in acupuncture. … The whole Eastern philosophy, it's not compartmentalized like Western medicine. That's really allowed me to do the personal work, I think. To feel really motivated and energized. So I have a little part-time acupuncture practice on Monday evenings. I see three or four clients, and it's great. It's like a little treatment for me. I also do meditation and go to Buddhist temple. All those things really help.

What's the most frustrating or challenging part of the job?

When it comes to patient care and the systems are letting people down, that's really frustrating to me. When a child needs a service and they fall through the cracks, and it's because two systems are fighting with each other, that frustrates me. So in my work, I get to do things like help fix those problems … one at a time.

jhopkins@baltsun.com

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