A vehicle as big as a house rolled down South Street in Daytona Beach last weekend and pulled up to the curb in front of an apartment building for single mothers experiencing homelessness with their children. The reason for its stop — made clear by the AdventHealth slogan emblazoned its side — was to help the residents and other moms served by Family Renew Community “feel whole.”
The repurposed RV is the hospital network’s women’s health bus. It fills a void for women by running over their most common obstacles to obtaining an annual physical and gynecological exam: lack of transportation, time or money.
“If they can’t come to us or they don’t have insurance, we can come to them,” said Becky Vernon, director of women’s and children’s services at AdventHealth Daytona Beach. Vernon was on a team of six volunteers and practitioners who spent their Saturday delivering screenings, pap smears, breast exams and, when necessary, providing medications to mothers who are, or recently were, homeless with their children.
“We saw 15 women ranging in age from 25 to 54,” said Linda Misko, AdventHealth Daytona Beach’s director of education, who organized the visit of the bus to Family Renew. The opportunity for exams was made available to current and former residents of the organization’s housing programs.
Among the patients was Michelle. After years of couch surfing, followed by a stay in a domestic violence shelter, she lives in a Family Renew apartment with her 2½-year-old son and is close to putting the experience of homelessness behind her. She has health coverage, but has been so busy working in a fast-food resident and addressing her son’s medical needs that she barely gave a thought to getting a well-woman exam. “It was just a blessing that his popped up,” she said.
Another patient was Mary, who overcame homelessness with Family Renew Community’s help in 2019. After decades as a housewife and stay-at-home mom, she suddenly became single, with no place to live with her son, then a high-school senior. She found a new direction for her life while at Family Renew, “and from that point I just went up.” She is doing well but is “between insurances,” and was grateful to be included in the offer of a free exam. “I think Family Renew is just a wonderful program from top to bottom,” she said.
Laurie Archer-Dugo, program manager for the Family Renew site where the bus parked for the day, noted that AdventHealth was helping families to feel whole by making it easier for mothers to take care of themselves.
“If Mom’s not healthy, then, you know, the family might be in a little bit of trouble, so this will be absolutely wonderful for everybody,” she said.