Looking Ahead…

This year, we have done a lot of reflecting over the last 40 years of Urban Ministries of Wake County’s (UMWC) existence. There have been numerous changes, innovations, and even a worldwide pandemic. As we approach 2022, it’s time to think about the vision our programs hold for the future. 

The UMWC Hunger and Nutrition Food Pantry, Helen Wright Shelter for Women, and Open Door Clinic have all made great strides over the years and has overcome a public health crisis that is COVID-19. Let’s take a look at how each program plans to continue to forge ahead. 

Hunger and Nutrition

Director of Hunger and Nutrition Nick Robertson has seen success and many lives changed and wants the program to continue to do so.

“My vision for our future is one of continuing the model of progression; to not be stagnant, to find better, focused, more impactful ways to care for our neighbors, and to change the lens and the narrative about how we serve and why,” Robertson said. “My goal is to end food insecurity. Of course, that is a mission that may never be accomplished, but I see no other goal worth striving for.” 

Helen Wright Shelter for Women 

Unfortunately, the current permanent housing options are very limited and are not conducive to quickly moving people out of shelter. Therefore, shelters must adapt to help clients create person-centered pathways out of homelessness. 

Director of Crisis Programs Lisa Jones says that in order to help with housing, the Helen Wright program must fully resource its shelters to meet people where they are and focus on their specific needs as they relate to obtaining and maintaining housing. 

“My vision for the Helen Wright Center for Women is a full-service shelter that operates under Housing First but while waiting for permanent housing connections, clients are offered the services they need to help set them up for success in housing,” Jones said. 

She hopes to see more services such as Alcoholic/Narcotics Anonymous meetings, support groups, life skills classes, connection to mainstream benefits, mental health services, educational opportunities and more. 

Open Door Clinic  

Moving forward, The Open Door Clinic will continue to provide healthcare with an integrated care model approach and serve as a health partner and medical home to our underserved, uninsured neighbors.  It will continue to operate on a hybrid telehealth and in-person model to better serve those with barriers to in-person care, grow and solidify its comprehensive multidisciplinary approach to diabetes care, expand its behavioral health and wellness program, the COVID-19 Case Management Program, develop partnerships with different hospitals and agencies such as Duke Raleigh, Wake Med, UNC Rex, Neighbor Health, Walgreens, and others, and expand the number of established patients and access to healthcare by continuing to work on the strategic Clinic Outreach Plan.

“One of my dreams is to establish a free and charitable ‘walk in clinic.’ No safety-net clinic in our community offers this type of service for minor acute care,” Open Door Clinic Director Dr. Lucy Vidal-Barreto said. “I strongly believe one is needed, not just for the immediate need, but also as a way to connect patients to a comprehensive physical and behavioral health medical home.  This walk-in clinic would offer an alternative to emergency room visits and urgent care centers that are generally unconcerned about developing chronic health conditions.”  

Dr. Vidal-Barreto said the clinic looks forward to continued funding, when it becomes available, to maintain and expand its operations and capacity. 

Vision from the perspective of Executive Director 

It’s time to reclaim our space and place. 

The pandemic is still with us, with Delta rising and Omicron threatening. However, our neighbors in need, at first hesitant, are now vaccinated at positive rates. Plus, we are all practicing masking and social distancing.

“It’s time now to shake out the welcome mat, offer some hospitality, reopen our doors, and offer some air-hugs and smiles that crinkle and shine in eyes visible above masks that can’t hide our hearts,” UMWC Executive Director Peter Morris said. “We know what to do. We can ease some pandemic fatigue with some much-needed connection and caring. We believe we can.” 

The country is experiencing inflation at an almost 40-year high. Similar to 40 years ago when our organization was founded, prices on everything from groceries to rent and house prices have risen exponentially. More people are going to need assistance. Having these set visions and goals in place as well as innovative minds will ensure that our people are taken care of.