Circle the City opens family health center to serve those experiencing homelessness

For those who live on the streets, a visit to the doctor might be necessary, but it’s mostly out of reach. Thanks to a new facility in central Phoenix, those days are over.

A new primary healthcare facility that specializes in serving the population experiencing homelessness opened Sept. 1. Circle the City staff, volunteers and dignitaries squeezed tightly into the waiting room of The Parsons Family Health Center for the grand opening.

The 9,000-square-foot facility sits north of St. Joseph Hospital at Third Avenue and Osborn and will offer comprehensive medical care plus integrated psychiatric care, behavioral health therapy and case management services. It’s the fourth major Circle the City outreach since 2012.

Sr. Adele O'Sullivan chats with guests following the grand opening of a medical center aimed at providing primary healthcare for those experiencing homelessness. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Sr. Adele O’Sullivan chats with guests following the grand opening of a medical center aimed at providing primary healthcare for those experiencing homelessness. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

That’s when Sr. Adele O’Sullivan, CSJ, founder and director, led staff and volunteers in offering the area’s first medical respite center for patients who are discharged from a hospital, but without a home in which to fully recuperate or properly monitor medication. Circle the City has served more than 600 patients since then.

Expansion efforts put a two-room mobile medical unit on the road plus a homeless-focused Assertive Community Treatment Team conducting street outreach to those who are experiencing homelessness and showing signs of a serious mental illness.

“Every human being deserves access to health care, regardless of their economic status,” Sr. O’Sullivan said.

Bob and Renee Parsons, whose foundation provides critical funding to nonprofits that support underserved populations, share that same belief. It was a $2 million grant from their foundation that helped purchase and remodel the building.

Among The Parsons Family Health Centers eight exam rooms includes one that allows patients in wheelchairs or scooters to easily maneuver around. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Among The Parsons Family Health Centers eight exam rooms includes one that allows patients in wheelchairs or scooters to easily maneuver around. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Patients will be seen in one of eight exam rooms including a triage area and meet with a team of clinicians experienced in treating acute and chronic health problems faced by the homeless population. Large framed pictures and artwork decorate the rooms and hallways, creating a more dignified environment.

It’s those small comforts and other basic efforts of staff and volunteers that can create a sense of purpose and gratitude, said Laura Mitchell, executive director of The Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation. She credited divine intervention, worldly enlightenment and a good business plan for Circle the City’s mission and outreach so far.

“This is for the basic, everyday medical care that we all need,” she told The Catholic Sun. Mitchell said she is most moved by the service and dignity the family health center will provide to those who need it most.

Margaret Licosati, a parishioner at St. Theresa, has been volunteering with Circle the City for more than two years. She learned about the organization when a guest speaker introduced it during an Order of Malta meeting. Licosati has done everything from serving on the street team, to cleaning patient dorms, to supporting arts and crafts to sorting the center’s library.

“It makes a difference to people who matter,” Licosati said.

Phoenix Mayor and fellow Catholic, Greg Stanton agreed. In brief, informal remarks during the ribbon cutting, he said, “You want to see faith in action, visit Circle the City. That’s what they do.”

Some 17,000 people experience homelessness across Maricopa County each year. Circle the City anticipates serving more than 4,500 of them each year at the new center over roughly 13,000 visits.

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Circle the City

Providing primary health care via a medical center, mobile unit and respite facility care to patients who are experiencing homelessness

The Parsons Family Health Center: 3522 N. Third Ave.

(602) 776-9000 or online

Hear an interview with Sr. Adele, founder and medical director. Cue up 22:33.

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