How much good can a small red pouch, zip tie and sheet of paper do for someone living on the streets? Turns out, a lot.
Downtown Chapel is pioneering an innovative, potentially life-saving program for medically vulnerable people experiencing homelessness called the Vial of Life program. It’s actually an adaptation of a nationally established program used by people who have homes, applied now to those who do not.
Homeless participants can fill out a one-page sheet listing medical illnesses, prescriptions, emergency contacts, allergies and blood type, stuff it into a red plastic pouch no bigger than an index card, and attach it to their backpack. The “vial” provides an easily identifiable, relatively reliable record to emergency personnel, and Downtown Chapel keeps a copy in case the original is lost.
Since June, around 40 homeless individuals have participated in the Vial of Life program at Downtown Chapel, meeting one-on-one for a few minutes with volunteer nursing students from University of Portland who help them fill out medical information and even call pharmacies if there are questions about prescriptions.
Reviews by participants have been “over the moon,” says Andrew Noethe, pastoral associate at Downtown Chapel who is overseeing the implementation of the Vial of Life program in collaboration with parish nurse Sharon Christenson. Participant Michelle says she recommends it to other friends on the street who have seizures or diabetes and thinks there should be “a lot more awareness” about the Vial of Life program. Continue reading