Center for homeless offers medical care through unique partnership

A Charleston resource center for people experiencing homelessness uses telehealth to provide medical care to one of the state’s most vulnerable populations. 

More than 4,000 people in the state of South Carolina are experiencing homelessness. In the Charleston area, there are more than 400 homeless people: veterans, seniors, individuals and families. 

“It’s really hard to get out of homelessness,” said Marie Elana Roland, CEO of The Navigation Center

People typically live in “a crisis mode,” Roland said, because it is very difficult to escape homelessness. But The Navigation Center, located in downtown Charleston at 529 Meeting Street, provides food, housing support, employment services, hygiene care, and medical care through telehealth with doctors from the Medical University of South Carolina

Telehealth is an amazing technology for us,” Roland said. “They can just walk in and meet with MUSC and start their diagnosis. It’s a way for them to start getting healthy, so that they can make the right decisions and the right choices for their next steps.” 

Layne Walker, a medical student at MUSC, and the first director of operations at The Navigation Center, said with the help of student volunteers, and telehealth technology, doctors are able to treat a variety of patient complaints all without leaving their office at MUSC. 

Using digital equipment including a stethoscope and otoscope, the healthcare provider located at MUSC can hear and see throughout the exam. 

“It’s as if the provider was in the room,” Walker said. 

Cristin Swords Adams, DO, MPH, and Assistant Professor for the MUSC Department of Family Medicine, said providing care through telehealth allows her to bring medical care to patients who might not otherwise seek out care. 

“This is an often stigmatized and marginalized population and often there’s a lot of distrust with the medical system,” Adams said. “We’re providing this care at a place where they’ve already developed relationships and they have trust.”