Connections Coordinator, Elevate Branson
What health inequities do people face in your community?
In Branson there are a lot of people who would love to go to the doctor. They would love to have resources. They would love to cook their families healthy meals. They would love to be able to do that, and it’s just not an option. So we have to figure out a way to help them help themselves.
What impact do living conditions have on a family's health?
A typical motel room is pretty small. It’s not made to live in, it’s more made for a weekend. It has two beds, it has a nightstand, it has a bathroom, and it has a shower. But it doesn’t have a kitchen table. It doesn’t have a way to cook and prepare meals. Some rooms do have a small mini-fridge like you would have in college, but not enough to hold much healthy food.
A lot of our extended stay families double up. It’s kind of expensive to be in one room. I think most rooms are up to $150 to $180 a week, which is kind of pricey. So up to two families may live in one of these extended stays. The children are sleeping on the floor, or the parents are sleeping on the floor. They can’t make meals.
They really aren’t safe to let the kids run outside and play. It is a parking lot, so there’s cars speeding in and out. It’s on the highway on 76 Highway, so there’s nowhere for them to play. So a lot of the children that live in extended stay hotels stay in their room the majority of the time, and they sit in front of the television.
I’m sure the parents would love to make a healthy meal for them, or a meal at all, but they don’t have that resource, so they do the best they can. It’s typically fast food, or it's chips, sandwiches, popcorn – things that they can make in their hotel room without a kitchen.
How important are partnerships with other community organizations?
The Health Department, along with us, is always looking for ways to try to reach people where their highest needs are. Sometimes we don’t know that until we start communicating and networking with others. We have a meeting once a month, and we’re able to talk about the needs, the resources, and that just opens up more doors for us to help the Health Department and them to help us. I see this partnership growing because the needs are ever changing.
How do you partner with the Health Department to ensure the people you serve have the opportunity to thrive?
It’s amazing the partnership that we have with the Health Department. They come here two days a month - WIC does. A lot of our neighbors that stay in the extended stay hotels do not have access to transportation, so they cannot make it to the health department. By WIC coming here, the neighbors can walk, or they can get a ride a lot easier here. They can get the information they need from WIC, because you know that’s a vital resource. They can get the infant formula when they’re expecting. They can get those amazing foods that WIC offers – the milk – they can get that actually here, with us.
We just hosted a COVID vaccine clinic, and we did that on a Wednesday, because on Wednesdays we give rides to our neighbors. We take them to the doctor. We take them to get their IDs. We take them to any next step resource that they could possibly need. We actually went and picked up our neighbors. We brought them here, and they were able to get vaccinated, which that was just amazing for a lot of them, because some of them wanted to be vaccinated, but they could not travel to any of the host sites because they have zero transportation.