When COVID-19 cases began to spike in Rhode Island and across the country, the Loft team was intent on doing whatever we could to help those most impacted. Our Mobile Medical Units were born out of a desire to use our resources and skills to support our fellow Rhode Islanders. We envisioned the medical units being used by communities, universities, and companies to conduct testing, sign up neighbors for vaccines, and administer the shots; so when we were approached by ONE Neighborhood Builders, a local non-profit organization, we felt like the mobile units would be a perfect fit for their needs.
ONE Neighborhood Builders’ mission is to develop affordable housing and engage neighbors across Greater Providence to cultivate healthy, vibrant, and safe communities. They shared our vision of using the mobile medical units to help bring COVID-19 care into the heart of communities and we were thrilled to have the chance to work with them. We asked Jennifer Hawkins, Executive Director of ONE Neighborhood Builders, to share some insights on how the mobile medical units supported their organization. As Ms. Hawkins shared,
“At a time when convening neighbors inside of buildings and holding community sessions that bring large groups of people together under one roof has become inconceivable, having these [mobile units] is so crucial to meeting our mission. We can park within the neighborhood and then meet with residents outside, in socially-distanced settings. This has allowed us to continue our central work and continue to reach residents where they are.”
One of the main goals of the design and construction of the medical units was flexibility. We wanted the units to be helpful in any stage of the pandemic, whether the need be testing, vaccination, or both. Some communities have been hit harder than others and have difficulties receiving tests and vaccine information. Others have more senior populations who have trouble getting to testing and vaccination sites. The mobility of these units solves for both these issues and more. Director of Community Health Integration Laurie Moïse Sears describes how the flexibility of the trailers supported her team’s needs.
“In March 2020, we were forced to recreate our methods of outreach for our Community Building Team. We had been “on the ground” daily and able to conduct home visits where our community health workers would meet residents one-to-one in the comfort of their own homes. It was a difficult shift when we were not able to connect as we used to. This [mobile unit], which is now up and running, has allowed us to meet residents outdoors and provide necessary outreach services to ensure their needs are met during this time. This mobile trailer has allowed our team to connect with the community, in the community, during a time where meeting one-to-one is extremely difficult. At this time, the [mobile unit] has allowed our team to provide care in a safe manner, and it takes the phrase ‘meeting people where they’re at’ to new heights. We look forward to expanding our mobile outreach efforts.”
Currently, ONE Neighborhood is using the trailers for vaccine information and registration but has big plans for the future. Sears goes on to explain that,
“We would like to see the [mobile unit] used for vaccine distribution and for additional COVID-19 response efforts. Our Community Building team has been on the ground meeting residents where they are: in parks and at recreation centers and community centers, etc. This is important because COVID-19 has shifted our direct-service work. The next 6 months will be vital in community outreach as vaccines become available to all, rent-relief options open up, and families become eligible for benefits as COVID-19 response efforts continue to roll out. In the future, the trailer will be used for health fairs, health education and outreach, along with the possibility of onsite medical services.”
At Loft, we continue to be inspired by the work being done by ONE Neighborhood Builders and we hope others can look to them for inspiration on how the mobile medical units can be tailored to serve any community or organization.