A plea for help: Here’s how Shepherd eased one man’s suffering

Hungry and in pain, the man was desperate for help. So he did what he knew to do: Call 911.

A dispatcher dutifully sent an ambulance, even though the man’s needs were not immediately life threatening, because often there’s simply no one else to send.

But this time members of Shepherd Community Center’s Shalom Project team heard the dispatch, recognized the address, and knew they could help.

“When we arrived, the patient was in the back of the ambulance, complaining of a whole host of issues,” Shane Hardwick, a Shepherd-subsidized city paramedic, said. “After speaking with the gentleman for a couple of minutes, we were able to decipher what the root cause of the 911 call was.”

The man, who has developmental disabilities, lives alone in a tiny room on the near east side. He has only a mattress on the floor. No table, chairs or lamps. No phone, TV or radio to connect him to the world outside. In the past, the Shalom team and others have offered to help the man find a better place to live, but he’s refused to move.

Life is hard in normal times for those caught in deep poverty on the city’s east side. The pandemic has made it immeasurably worse, especially for the vulnerable struggling with chronic conditions and constant needs.

In this man’s case, he had stopped receiving disability checks and couldn’t pay his rent or buy groceries. His medications also had run out. Alone and overwhelmed, he didn’t know how to navigate the system to get the help he needed.

“We saved the patient an ambulance ride by spending time working on the root issues,” Hardwick said. “The patient didn’t realize that the trustee’s office is indeed open but had adjusted their hours. He had no idea that his checks had been waiting on him. Moving forward, the check will now be sent to Shepherd and will be hand delivered to the patient. This gives us a reason to make monthly contacts with him.”

The Shalom team also gave the man an emergency food bag from the Shepherd pantry and added him to Shepherd’s shut-in list so that he can receive meals delivered to his room daily.

The team scheduled an appointment for the man at a medical clinic and arranged to have his medications sent to Shepherd, which will deliver them to his home.

The mission of the Shalom Project – with the support of partners such as Elanco, Gleaners, Ezkenazi Health and the Fuller Center for Housing – is to take Shepherd’s work to reduce poverty, crime and violence outside the walls of the community center and into the community.

Sometimes that means helping a neighbor by mowing a yard or painting a house. Sometimes it means delivering food to a family that’s lost a job. And sometimes it means answering a 911 call and intervening to meet the needs of someone who otherwise would be alone in the world.

To learn more about the Shalom Project, and to help support the team’s vital work, visit shepherdcommunity.org