Engaging the Homeless Community
JASMINE ROBINSON ’20 (above, left) started the Here to Help
Clinic as a way to help meet the needs of the homeless population
in Burlington. A shower, toiletries, hot food, a haircut, and along
the way, connections to community agencies offering services.
What participants valued the most surprised her.
“They said that the best part about the clinic was getting
to talk to people,” she says. “I wasn’t expecting this to have as
powerful an impact as it did.”
Founding the Here to Help Clinic was personal: As a child,
Robinson experienced homelessness. After suffering a job-related
disability, her mom had trouble finding an affordable place to live
with Robinson and her brother, who has autism. The family of
three moved many times, and eventually settled in a hotel for a
year and a half before finally securing an apartment. When she had
the opportunity in high school to shadow a primary care physician
who offered a free clinic, the seed for Here to Help was planted.
Initially supported by a Schweitzer Fellowship, the clinic
launched in July of 2016. It now regularly attracts upwards of 80
attendees, and has been designated a Student Interest Group by the
College. Shae Rowlandson ’21 (above, right) has taken over where
Robinson and two students from the Class of 2020—Erin Hunt and
Russell Himmelstein—left off. A graduate of UVM, Rowlandson
earned a master’s degree in health sciences at Johns Hopkins and
worked as a medical assistant at a free clinic in Baltimore. Here, he
found his passion, rooted in engagement and advocacy.
“If we’re going to tackle a lot of these problems, it’s going to
take us actually going out in the community and doing something
about it,” he says.
He’s not alone. As of last count, over two dozen students are
SIG members, which is music to Robinson’s ears.
“The great thing about the Here to Help clinic is it gives a lot
of students who may not have had any exposure to this type of
population the opportunity to engage,” she says. “It creates a bond
that I think otherwise wouldn’t happen.”
Story by Erin Post
Photos by David Seaver, Andy Duback