Health fair for the homeless

March 10, 2011

One community planned a 1-day screening event for the 14,000 homeless who live on the streets and in shelters in Houston, Texas.

We began by visiting several healthcare agencies in Houston. We wanted to know where the need for a screening event was greatest. We were directed to the Third Ward Multi Service Center on Ennis Street, east of downtown Houston. We visited this facility, run by the city of Houston, and staff members welcomed us, granted us a license to use their facility, and waived all fees for our 1-day fair.

To raise money to fund the health fair, we decided to apply for nonprofit status. (Many people are more willing to give money and supplies for tax-deductible reasons.) When we applied for nonprofit status using IRS application 1023, we were informed that the IRS would assign an agent in about 6 months. We were anxious to begin work right away and needed the tax status defined for us.

To start and not lose our energy and enthusiasm, we partnered with a similar nonprofit organization, Emergency Aid Coalition, and drew up a legal agreement that made us a supporting partner. The legal agreement gave us the benefits of nonprofit status, and our partner balanced our checkbook-an important contribution.

We applied for grants and donations and received a total of $10,300 from small donations of $50 to $500. We received $5,000 from the American Contract Bridge League. Funds were used to purchase soft drinks, meat, and bread, as well as pay for security, phone bills, and t-shirts for the volunteers. Toiletries were donated, including underwear, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorants, razors, and soap. Many individuals contributed blankets and food. A local hospital provided flu shots.

NETWORKING IS KEY