A Project Homeless Connect event earlier this month involved a wide assortment of professional talents and expertise at the Key Peninsula Church of the Latter-Day Saints, which turned its facility over to a plethora of social, medical, dental and tax preparations.
Even hair styling and cutting were offered to those in need.
Gig Harbor dentist Richard Coyner and Clover Park Technical College dental assistant Anastasiya Mayster treated several patients on Aug. 9. One admitted he hadn’t seen a dentist for at least four years.
Key Medical Center’s Dr. William Roes and Dr. Dick Coe gave medical advice and treatment to eight patients.
Coe, who moved to Tacoma from El Paso, Texas, to retire in 1998, acknowledged he only stayed retired for about nine months. Then he began to work, replacing doctors who needed to be absent from their practices, he said.
“Sept. 12, 2001, then-president Bush called for retired primary care physicians to pitch in to use their skills to free up resources in the national interest to conduct what he called ‘The War on Terror,’ ” said Coe, a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians since 1972.
The Pierce County Chapter of the academy invited Coe to volunteer for Friday’s free clinic.
“I’d done nothing like it since the Army sent me on Military Aid to the Civilian Population missions in 1968 in South Vietnam,” he said.
“Compared to a Third World population, our poor are rich; however, compared to our affluent majority, there is a clear gap. And the gap is not only visible, it’s wide in the sense of ‘widespread.’ ”
Coe said he saw eight of the 22 patients who were presented at the clinic, which was equipped by the Pierce County Medical Reserve Corps.
“Two other physicians took part,” he said. “I had forgotten, as many of us had, the homeless and impoverished among us. Contrary to popular belief, there wasn’t a ‘freeloader’ in the lot that I saw and spoke to.
“Amazingly, patients I saw had not given up on the system,” Coe said. “Their knowledge of how our society is supposed to work was surprisingly sophisticated. They believed they could and would enter or re-enter the middle class.”
As proceedings for Project Homeless Connect were coming to an end, volunteer Allan Boyd of Food Backpacks 4 Kids felt enthused.
“We’ve had 133 people attend the program, 30 of whom were kids,” he said. “Considering that this is the first time we’ve conducted this project, I think it’s great.”
Coe said he thought Project Homeless Connect had been worthwhile.
“I was privileged to make the acquaintance of people ordinarily too busy trying to get themselves and their families sheltered and fed to be at an employment office or otherwise hold themselves out as media bait,” he said. “Or, for that matter, occupying the centers of our downtowns before the cameras. And I was able to really help eight families directly and at a local level.
“I plan to be at the next similar event and to continue to do so as long and as often as I am able.”Hugh McMillan is a longtime freelance writer for The Peninsula Gateway. He can be reached at 253-884-3319 or by email at hmcmnp1000@ centurytel.net.