CLEVELAND (WJW) — It’s often an invisible crisis that the dedicated team of caregivers at the Cleveland Clinic can see clearly. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage, so does the crisis among the homeless population who often cannot afford health care.
“We have a very large at-risk population,” said Emergency Department RN Brian Holbrook. “So emergency rooms across the United States are the stopgap for health care. For them, a lot of it is we’re their primary care, we’re their fail-safe.”
Betsy Martinez, also a registered nurse and colleague of Holbrook, said she saw the need in their patients and began asking what they could do to help provide masks and other supplies to the homeless.
The two launched a new effort to provide for the underserved population.
They said word quickly spread across the department and thanks to the help of colleagues and others who provided donations they were able to fill 100 backpacks for men and women stuffed with essentials including food and masks.
“We just basically jumped in our cars and we were driving to ramps around downtown. Whoever we saw that was in need, we got out of our cars. They were very thankful,” said Martinez.
Both nurses called the deliveries an eye-opening experience.
“They sleep on the street,” said Holbrook. “They sleep in tents. They sleep on the benches,” Martinez added. “You hear about the homeless, we see it at work, but they’re out there. They’re really out there…Some of them just wanted to talk and just say hi to us.”
They say the efforts to assist left them with a remarkable experience, how to help save lives outside of the hospital. Now they plan on starting the process again.
Martinez said she doesn’t know exactly when but “we just started something and this is not going to be the end of it.”
“I think all of my colleagues are heroes. I think that what we do every single day — we save lives for a living — that is what we do. So yeah, I wear my cape every single day,” said Martinez.
This new mission of giving is just another way caregivers are answering the call once again during this pandemic to extend a helping hand to the community.
“If we all just help each other a little bit out, how much of a better place it would be,” said Holbrooke. “It also made me learn mostly that I’m very lucky for what I do have in this world.”
A study published by Columbia University last year found the number of Americans living in poverty grew by 8 million since May.
As part of the Fox hit show 911, Holbrook and Martinez are being saluted along with frontline heroes across the country.