The past year has forced a dramatic change in reality for all of us. As we begin to see light at the end of the tunnel and look to the future, one of those rays lighting the way for Deborah’s Place comes from Health Services Manager Danielle Crawford. Danielle and her work prioritizing the health of participants throughout the pandemic, has resulted in zero major outbreaks of COVID-19 amongst program participants, an increase in accessible health services, and a reinvigorated agency approach to integrating health services into case management support.

Danielle has been a working part of Deborah’s Place’s mission since 2014. Starting out as an intern in the Health Services Department, she connected participants with different agency health services, offered health education, and more. As her internship came to an end, she was offered a part-time position on the team. Danielle accepted the position, ultimately driven to say yes by her desire to positively impact the lives of women who’ve experienced homelessness and the joy she experienced working with the women of Deborah’s Place.

“Being in this position and working with Deborah’s Place, it helped me to kind of put all of that into perspective and be able to assist on the side of breaking barriers and work through those barriers with our participants”

Breaking down barriers to health and wellbeing for women who’ve endured homelessness has been a focal point of both Danielle’s academic and professional careers. She can trace her interest in improving the social determinants of health and removing barriers to wellness created by the health insurance industry to her experience as a graduate student pursuing a degree in Public Health. Knowing that women experiencing homelessness have a lack of resources to live a healthy life, Danielle works hard to ensure the women of Deborah’s Place have the tools they need to heal and start their new healthy lives. Because of this, she works hard to bring in more resources for the women we serve.

“As far as health and homelessness, we know that social determinants of health is very important. So if a person is homeless, their health is going to be affected because they don’t have the proper housing. Housing is first. That is what I like about Deborah’s Place because housing is like the number one mission.”

As the pandemic hit early 2020, Deborah’s Place had to hit the ground running. As an organization that serves a medically fragile population, the coronavirus pandemic had the potential to compound the medical vulnerability of participants making the need for the work of the Health Services Department greater than ever. In the midst of the pandemic, Danielle accepted her current role as Health Services Manager. While taking on a managerial role during a pandemic isn’t easy, thankfully Danielle was prepared and ready to take on the challenge. At the start, she focused heavily on providing education and working with our partners to provide important information about COVID-19 and the vaccine to participants. While keeping her door open to any questions our residents may ask regarding health or COVID-19, she also was able to partner with Heartland Alliance Health to provide vaccines to residents and program staff.

“Once the vaccine rolled out, we started to get people vaccinated, and provided resources for them to be vaccinated, it seems like the anxiety level has calmed down some. One of the things in my previous role as a coordinator, our challenge was just getting people to come out to do COVID testing. So now our challenge has kind of shifted to where we are trying to get individuals vaccinated… Things are looking more towards a positive direction”

While things are starting to look up, there are still bigger issues that the homeless population faces in regards to health. Whether it is mental health or physical health, Danielle notes that the first step in building a better foundation for an individual’s health is being housed.

“If you are not housed, how can you take care of your health? If you don’t know where you are going to sleep tonight, that is already a stressor. Not being housed means you don’t have access to the proper foods to eat. Internally you may be feeling hopeless and things of that nature.”

– Danielle Crawford

As Deborah’s Place continues to house women experiencing homelessness, Danielle is working hard to provide the best health care and resources available to those who need it most. With her background in public health, her dedication to health education, and her drive to provide the best health resources possible, Danielle is an essential part of the team at Deborah’s Place.

Thank you, Danielle!

Check out Danielle in our recent video about Health Services: