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You gave, it helped: The nursing services of Garden State Episcopal CDC's Drop-In Center

Nurse Martha Tisdale with a guest at Garden State Episcopal CDC's Drop-In Center
Michal Bacon

Garden State Episcopal CDC received a grant from the Alleluia Fund to add nursing services to its Hudson CASA Recovery Support Project Homeless Drop-in Program. The program has been very successful in serving low-income and homeless individuals, many of whom are not connected with healthcare services. The provision of this grant has allowed us to enhance the program by having a nurse at the Drop-in Center once a week. The following is a story of one woman and asks the question: Does a nurse on the front lines in a homeless program have an effect upon the greater good?

When the nurse arrived to her weekly clinic at the Hudson CASA Recovery Support Project, a thin young woman was pacing fretfully in the Drop-in Center. She had been there for an hour and had not responded to any of the overtures from staff to sit and share her situation. She accepted only a cup of coffee with six sugars. Other than that she remained isolated within her restlessness.

When the nurse came out into the common area in a white coat, the young lady brightened a bit and asked who she was. Staff jumped on the chance to see the mysterious woman come forth and introduced the young woman to the nurse. The nurse, Martha, took her into her room and with her gentle, inviting persona, encouraged the young woman to tell her why she seemed distraught. “I don’t have no ID’s.” responded the young woman.

Martha’s years of experience taught her to work slowly from the initial responses, which are usually superficial, into deeper issues. “Yes, being without ID’s can be very upsetting. And you know the caseworker here can help you with them right after you and I are done talking. But, it looks like you haven’t been sleeping. Is that right?” For what seemed to be an eternity, she stared silently at the floor, occasionally glancing at the nurse, glowering and moving her lips. Eventually, the young woman looked up at her with moist eyes, “You wouldn’t be sleeping either if you had what, what I do…..” She proceeded to unfold a personal scenario in which she, being in an abusive relationship, had been subjected not only to verbal abuse but physical, all taking place in the midst of cocaine use.

She had been beaten recently. As if to prove her story, she lifted her shirt to reveal a huge bruise under her rib cage. Martha carefully examined the area, keeping to herself the alarm she felt over the girl’s situation. The bruise was serious and it needed immediate attention, which she would next arrange with the local medical clinic. Equally alarming was the thought that the young woman would, after treatment, return to a life of substance and physical abuse.

She finished the phone calls to the clinic, and turned to the young woman. Martha spoke quietly about the situation and how difficult it is for women to step out of both addiction and abusive relations. The young woman was frank in admitting that, for her, it will be very difficult. Before she left for the clinic, Martha introduced her to a staff person who would try to work with her on both problems. They were able to speak and the woman was provided with resources and discussed a safety plan. While still reluctant to accept services, the young woman was more open to talking and considering accepting help.

Martha’s expert intervention with the young woman reflects not only years of experience but something else as well. It is the deeply-held conviction of the Garden State Episcopal CDC that all who come through its doors are treated with respect. It is a reflection of the radical hospitality as taught by the Episcopal Church, put into action. It is the sense that no case is hopeless regardless of the circumstances. Every effort to be of actual help will be made. To do less would be to violate its covenant to do for the poorest of these.

Michal Bacon is the Coordinator of Garden State Episcopal CDC's Hudson CASA Recovery Support Project Homeless Drop-in Program.

Since its inception in 2010, the Alleluia Fund has made grants to 38 organizations totaling $398,000. With a gift to the Alleluia Fund in 2013, you can help continue to make a difference in our diocese by supporting outreach and mission. Questions? Please contact Sally Muscarella, Interim Alleluia Fund Coordinator, or visit