Walk a mile in my shoes…

Rachel MelsonLet’s think about socks for a minute. You probably barely give them a thought, until one goes missing in the wash.

But for the people in our community without regular, permanent housing, those simple socks can make a big difference, says Rachel Melson, Doctor of Nursing Practice, who works in Swope Health’s outreach and Mobile Medical Unit (MMU).

“So many of my patients are embarrassed by their feet and their socks, which may be the same pair they have worn all month,” Rachel said. “They have to walk miles and miles every day to get around and many of them experience foot issues because of that.”

Socks contribute to physical health and mental wellbeing, she says. For example:

  • In cold temperatures, it doesn’t take long for frostbite to set in – about 30 minutes in subzero temperatures. According to Intellicast records, Kansas City traditionally has at least three winter months registering temperatures below 32 degrees, the freezing point.
  • When socks get wet, they can breed bacteria, which can cause infection.
  • Individuals with diabetes are at greater risk of skin injury, infection and amputations, making it even more important to keep feet healthy and free of blisters or sores.
  • Clothing often conveys a feeling of self-worth. People are more motivated to seek support if they have confidence in their appearance. It’s harder to stand tall without clean clothes, socks and shoes.

Hypothermia Infographic

socks and hops

The annual Socks and Hops gala in November 2018 resulted in about 15,000 pairs of new socks donated for the homeless population served by Swope Health.

Rachel says she has seen socks make that kind of impact with homeless individuals.

“It is truly an amazing change in their mood when they are given a new pair of socks to put on instead of their old ones,” she said. “There is nothing like putting on a new pair of socks to make you feel just a little better about yourself.”

Those are the reasons why Swope Health makes such an effort with annual events like Socks and Hops to raise awareness of the need. The most recent event in November 2018 generated donations of more than 15,000 pairs of socks, including donations from corporate sponsors.

Corporate Sponsors

  • Sock 101 is a Kansas City-based custom sock manufacturer. The company designs socks for fundraisers, giveaways, employee gifts, trade shows and general retail. The company emphasizes fun and functionality, said Tosha Everhart, the Sock Boss (yes, that’s her company title) at Sock 101.
    SOCK101 Logo
  • Notes to Self, another Kansas City-based firm, has been a sponsor of the event since 2015. This company creates socks that deliver positive messages. Putting on the socks, the wearer sees a message – I am beautiful, strong, awesome, confident, courageous, joyful or amazing. The idea is to bring positive thoughts to mind while putting on socks.Since its founding in 2011, the company has donated more than 50,000 socks to women’s shelters and other homeless service providers.
    Notes to Self Logo
  • Another contributor to this year’s flood of socks was Bombas LLC, a New York City-based company that makes socks. For each pair of socks purchased, the company donates one pair to someone in need. Founded in 2013, the company has donated more than 10 million pairs of socks – including 10,000 pairs to Socks and Hops.The donated Bombas socks are specially designed for use by people who may not have easy access to laundry. The socks are made with an anti-microbial treatment so they don’t need to be washed as often and reinforced seams and darker colors give them greater durability with less visible wear.

Socks and Hops

The MMU and Socks

“We are kind of known for socks now,” Rachel said. “People seek us out to see if we have any to give.”

Every patient who visits the MMU is given a pair or two of socks on their way out. The MMU makes regular visits to homeless shelters throughout the Kansas City area, year-round.

“Every person deserves to feel good about themselves and to have the opportunity for health,” Rachel said. “The socks we give out are just another way we try to help our patients achieve health and happiness. Socks are often an overlooked part of our wardrobes, but to our patients, a new, clean pair of socks can help prevent disease and promote a sense of wellbeing.”

Swope Health always welcomes donations of new, clean socks and other items. If you’d like to help out, please visit the Swope Health Giving page to learn more, including how you can volunteer or purchase items from our Homeless Outreach Wish List.

2nd Annual Socks and Hops a Big Success!

socks-and-hops-2016-1More than 200 people joined the Second Annual SHS Socks and Hops event Saturday, Nov. 12, at the City Market.

The crowd raised glasses of local artisanal beer and sodas while raising funds to help the homeless.

The event produced more than $9,600 from sponsorships, ticket sales, and raffles, with all proceeds supporting SHS Healthcare for the Homeless. Donations of socks were requested along with entry to the event.

“Providing clean, warm socks is one way to provide support for the homeless community, especially in these cold weather months,” said Michelle Keller, SHS vice president of patient services.

“Our Healthcare for the Homeless outreach program always sees an increase in frostbite and foot injuries as the weather turns colder. With foot injuries, there’s less mobility and, sometimes, that means more difficulty gaining access to needed healthcare services.”

The community party featured seven local craft breweries, plus six area chefs.

socks-and-hops-2016-5The local chefs:

Kansas City’s top craft brewers provided the beer and soft drinks:

socks-and-hops-2016-6“We’re grateful to all of our sponsors for their support for the homeless program,” Keller said. “We know the socks and funds will provide much-needed care for the homeless community we reach with the Mobile Medical Unit.”

The SHS Mobile Medical Unit makes regular visits to metro-area shelters to provide healthcare services.

Staffed with a full-time nurse practitioner, registered nurse and certified medical assistant, the Mobile Medical Unit offers physicals, immunizations, blood tests, and urgent care for non-emergencies.

The SHS care team also provides behavioral counseling and assists with finding resources like housing, transportation and employment.

If you missed this year’s event, you can still assist with a secure donation at the SHS website. Any amount is welcome. For example, a $10 donation provides for the purchase of two ready-to-eat heater meals.


You’re Invited — Third Thursday Party on May 19th!

Join Swope Health Services for Third Thursday, a free party at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on Thursday, May 19. Festivities kick off at 6 p.m. and feature live music by My Brothers and Sisters, a DJ, free programs and hands-on art activities. SHS will be featured in the Community Spotlight at the event.

We’ll be offering tours of our Mobile Medical Unit, which will serve as the backdrop for a special scavenger hunt, complete with prizes. SHS associates will also be on hand to share information about our programs and services.

The theme for this month’s event is #picturethis, which is a nod to a new exhibit at the museum featuring amateur snapshots.

Mobile Medical UnitWith an event that celebrates snapshots, you can bet that there will be lots of opportunities for taking photos — selfies and others — for publishing on our social media sites — FacebookTwitter and Instagram. Make sure to use #picturethis.

Picture yourself having a great time at the party! Come join us!

When:  6 p.m. Thursday, May 19

Where: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

What: #picturethis — the Third Thursday party


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SHS Mobile Medical Unit Provides Help on the Streets

By Leah Murry, Community Outreach Coordinator

Mobile Medical Unit

The SHS Mobile Medical Unit makes regular visits to City Union Mission, Hope Faith Ministries, Newhouse Domestic Violence Shelter, Rose Brooks Center, ReStart Inc. and Morning Glory Ministries street outreach.

At Swope Health Services, we’re committed to helping homeless people who struggle day-to-day living on the streets of Kansas City.

Our solution is a program of outreach to the homeless, featuring a mobile medical unit that visits homeless shelters and missions three days a week.

The Mobile Medical Unit provides basic medical care and sometimes acute care, too. We provide support for those needing treatment for chronic ailments, like diabetes, asthma, or heart conditions.

On some days, it might be help for bedbugs, sore throat or testing for sexually transmitted diseases. On others, it might be TB testing, screening for HIV, or offering flu shots. Sometimes the discussions are educational, offering suggestions for healthier options and assisting with support services.

Our big converted bus functions just like a clinic. You start with registration, where SHS outreach workers can help clients get the services that can make a difference — whether it’s medical care, behavioral health care, or social services like housing referrals or job placement programs.

After registration, it’s on to the nursing station and a visit to the health care provider or behavioral health specialist.

While the unit may not be able to handle every medical situation, the team provides as much support as possible — including referrals and help with additional services like transportation to get dental care or lab tests back at our main campus.

Each visit is a chance to make a difference.

Please help spread the word about the SHS Mobile Medical Unit. If you have questions, please use the comment box below.

Socks and Toothpaste

Everyone who visits the Mobile Medical Unit leaves with a new pair of socks, plus supplies like toothpaste or soap.

Martin Murphy

Provider Martin Murphy in the examination room in the Mobile Medical Unit.

Project Homeless Connect: One-Day Event On Friday, August 28th

ProjectHomelessConnectCan you help spread the word about a special one-day event to help people without homes in our community find the support they need?

The event is Project Homeless Connect KC and the goal is to connect someone experiencing homelessness to the services they might need. The Swope Health Services (SHS) Mobile Medical Unit will be there to provide free medical care.

The event is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday, August 28 at the Gregg/Klice Community Center at 17th Street and The Paseo, Kansas City.

Among the free services to be offered:

  • assistance getting a birth certificate
  • applications for housing support
  • employment assistance
  • applications for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women-Infants-Children (WIC) programs
  • Veterans programs
  • assistance with prescriptions
  • haircuts
  • portraits
  • legal aid
  • free wellness checks and select vaccinations for dogs of homeless individuals

ProjectHomelessFlyer1On-site child care will be available and all participants are offered a free lunch.

Project Homeless Connect will even provide free transportation throughout the day, approximately every 45 minutes, from:

  • Jackson County Courthouse, 415 E. 12th St.
  • CSL Plasma Center, 3715 Broadway St
  • Central Library Bus Stop, 14 W. 10th St.
  • City Union Mission, 1100 E. 11th St.
  • Hope Faith Ministries, 705 Virginia Ave.

Participants need to bring all vital documents — any forms of ID, Social Security cards, Birth Certificates, Veterans’ IDs (DD214)—with them. These documents are critical to getting the resources and services that can make a positive change for homeless individuals and families.

The event is organized by the nonprofit Rotaract Club of Kansas City, a young professional service organization.  More than 300 volunteers, service providers and sponsors gave assistance to 265 participants and children at the first event in 2014. At this year’s event, the organizers hope to assist 300 homeless participants.

Spread the word! More information is available at http://projecthomelessconnectkc.com/. Volunteers are also welcome — see the website or contact phckc@rotaractkc.com.