Helping Hands is a group of volunteer health professionals who have provided free healthcare to the poor and homeless in Gainesville, Florida since October, 1989. The clinic is staffed by social workers, registered nurses, advanced registered nurse practitioners, physicians, and community service volunteers. Over the years, there have been 20,000 clinic visits with over 5,000 individuals seeking care. More than half those served are homeless, ranging from months to decades on the streets.
We have received recognition for our healthcare services, including a Citation in President’s Volunteer Action Award Program in 1993 and the Governor’s Points of Light award for making a significant contribution to the community in 2006. Our Board of Directors supports our emphasis on volunteerism, and forms a backdrop for our successful mission to assist homeless people.
Cynthia and Randy Stacey worked at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Gainesville, Florida in 1989. Their concern about health care for veterans, and the uninsured population in general, grew.
Together with a few Nurse Practitioners, a Social Worker and an MD, they started a program at the local Salvation Army Lodge. It was simple: they checked blood pressures, and soaked feet.
Since those early days, volunteers strive to provide care in a non-judgmental, accepting and respectful way. Homeless individuals have responded with trust, respect, and gratitude.
As the clinic enters its 27th year, it is a medical home for the homeless.
Brendan Shortley discovered this world on the shores of Lake Erie. He has been recognized by various communities for his research and leadership in the areas of health, education, and service for over 30 years, including community service awards from city governments in South Florida and Gainesville. His work with homeless populations began in 1984 in South Florida, through street outreach efforts in the poorest neighborhoods along the East Coast. He started his college career at the University of Florida, where he earned degrees in neurobiology and psychology, with a minor in pathology. He conducted years of research on the relationships between the human brain and physiology, therapy effects on childhood cancer patients, etc. He also taught college students at a learning center in the fields of chemistry, physics, biology, anatomy and physiology. He founded his own learning center in town, and it won the 2013 award for Outstanding Service to the Community. Recent accomplishments include being elected chairman of the North Central Florida Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry in 2013. It was then that he jointly founded the million-dollar Empowerment Center for the Homeless and Hungry (GRACE Marketplace) in 2014. This Center now serves over 300 clients per day. Brendan continues to serve on the Coalition’s Board of Directors. He was elected Chair of the County Commissioners’ Health Care Advisory Board in 2013, and has served for every term since then. He is also involved in the National Association of County and City Health Officials Community Health Improvement Project in their Healthy Communities Initiative and Forces of Change Steering Committees.
He came to Helping Hands in the early years of its humble beginnings at the Salvation Army. He quickly began running check-in, processing patients, training volunteers/students, etc. functioning as the clinic manager. Brendan expanded further into roles such as Program Management, Volunteer Coordination, Clinic Management, and Finance/Grant Coordination. He also helped oversee the transition to the solely-occupied, two-story building where the clinic is currently located. Brendan is our Executive Director.
Wendy was born in Connecticut, and moved to Florida in 1997. She has an A.S. (Associate in Science) degree in medical assistant technology. After successfully participating in Helping Hands Clinic’s Women’s Empowerment Program, Wendy started volunteering in early 2014. In the fall of that year she was hired as an office assistant at the clinic. She loves her work and knows the challenges that confront homeless women.
Helping Hands Clinic is supported in part by the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners.