Clinic for homeless closes doors

PORTLAND, Maine —Portland’s Health Care for the Homeless had its last day for medical care on Thursday.

The local clinic lost a federal grant that provided a third of its budget and will close before the end of the year.

"It’s a somber event. The staff there have been dedicated and providing a high quality level of service for more than 20 years," Portland’s Health and Human Services Director Doug Gardner said.

Healthcare for the Homeless will continue to provide dental, substance abuse and mental health services three days a week until November. The clinic had served the city’s homeless population for 20 years.

Nate Raymond was referred to the clinic while spending the night at the Preble Street Shelter because of a tooth problem.

"That day I got dental work done. The same day. That’s unheard of in this state anyway," he said.

Gardner said one goal now is directing patients to another clinic.

"That’s the priority — making sure that we’re able to connect as many patients that were currently seeing at the city’s Health Care for the Homeless to the Portland Community Health Center," he said.

Portland Community Health Care is opening a second location on Preble Street to deal with an increase in patients from shelters, Gardner said.

Raymond expressed concern for homeless people who cannot make the short walk to the other clinic.

"Some of these people are just too old," he said. "They can’t maneuver. I can walk to any city in this state if I wanted to and not have a problem with it, but a lot of these people can barely walk across the street."

Wherever homeless people get medical help, though, Raymond stressed the importance of the services.

"I really think it’s a vital service for homeless people … a lot of these people have been homeless for a long time, and these are reasons why we can’t be normal if you have serious dental issues. That stuff can kill you. You can’t work every day. You can’t work eight hours and stuff," he said.

Healthcare for the Homeless has 28 employees, with some hired by the other clinic and others set to be laid off by the end of the year.