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4 min read

Physical Healing: Health Care at a Homeless Shelter

At Union Gospel Mission, we value whole-person recovery. This means we believe that in order to become a God-dependent, contributing member of society, each individual must pursue three types of healing:

Emotional, spiritual and physical. Not all physical ailments can be cured, of course, but for many people experiencing homelessness, the simple medical attention we all take for granted can bring them into wellness. A prescription for headaches, an ointment for a fungal infection, or the cleaning of a festering wound. 

Without our free medical clinics, UGM services would be incomplete.


Meet Annie Crain, UGM Medical Clinic Coordinator. 


One of the things we pride ourselves on in our little clinic is that we hear patients. We really listen to them.

"We have three clinics here in Spokane, one at each of our shelters. They each have clinic two days a week, and they’re served by volunteer nurses, practitioners, physicians, ARNPs. We have an eye clinic… several different specialists. We have about eighty medical volunteers total, with approximately twenty showing up regularly right now." 

Genevieve, Staff Writer: How has COVID impacted the clinics and volunteers? 

Annie: In February, I was looking at the calendar, and I was thinking, the only thing I have going on is my son’s wedding. All my weekends are free. I don’t have a life. And then, with COVID, I became the busiest person I know. I would live here. And I would be here… because everyone, even our medical professionals, were a little afraid. So, to have me here, saying, “This is what we need to do, this is how we do it. It was interesting that they’d come up to me afterward and they’d say, 'Thank you. I feel safe.' That all started in late February. I was driving to Seattle, where all the shelves were empty (we hadn't gotten there yet in Spokane, where the toilet paper was sold out and everything) and I felt like God spoke to me and said, 'Annie, your job is to keep people safe. You need to keep your volunteers safe…You need to take this seriously. I want you to be the carrier of health.' 

"And you know, as a health care person, I want to bring health."

Genevieve: How have clinic practices changed during the pandemic?

Annie: The SRHD (Spokane Regional Health District) has been our ally, they’ve been our best friend. They come out and do testing if we need that. They were instrumental in helping us walk through the AOH thing [Anna Ogden Hall was quarantined for several weeks due to an outbreak.] We were only doing phone clinics during the lockdown. It’s hard to hear how the person is feeling through the phone, but they did have a relationship with the provider already so they were able to communicate.

Annie says that even the residents have had a hand in keeping UGM shelters safe.

Michael, who’s a resident here, he oversees the team of residents who clean our clinic, and he’s just like, 'Annie, no germs are going to be in that clinic. I’m protecting it for myself as well as everyone here.’ It’s been cool to see the men here really step up and say, ‘We’re part of the solution.’

The team of volunteers that has been keeping the clinics running is made up of a diverse assortment of medical professionals. These are men and women who have chosen to donate their time for the well-being and safety of others. We enjoyed hearing from two of them. 

sandymcbrideSandy McBride, RN


"I knew little about UGM when I started, except for seeing the lines down the sidewalk at mealtime when it was located downtown." 

Genevieve: Tell us a little about yourself and your involvement at UGM.

Sandy: Once a week, I travel from Colfax thru the Palouse country to volunteer at the UGM clinic in Spokane.  It’s always a pleasant & enjoyable drive, except for the occasional wintry blizzard!

I enjoy my time in the clinic, being a part of working with the fellas &  meeting the challenges that they are facing.  So many have not had good medical attention for some time, and we’re frequently involved in changing that for them.

I went back to school later in life to become a nurse.  It was by the Lord's leading, I'm convinced. I would never have taken on that journey of my own accord! But I am grateful for the journey - I have loved being a nurse.

Genevieve: When and why did you start volunteering

Sandy: I began volunteering at UGM in Fall of 2013. There had been a mention in the UGM newsletter that they were looking for medical professionals to volunteer. I had just retired from hospital nursing in Colfax and still wanted to be involved in the medical setting, so I applied. I began at Anna Ogden clinic working with Susan Vowell, then about a year later, she mentioned a need at the Men’s clinic and I changed to that facility and have been there ever since. I now work with Annie Crain and am still finding it to be a satisfying experience.  

Genevieve: What have you learned about the homeless community and UGM's efforts? 

Sandy: I knew little about UGM when I started, except for seeing the lines down the sidewalk at mealtime when it was located downtown. When I went thru the orientation, I discovered how extensive the program was - truly amazing! A dear friend’s daughter once spent some time at Anna Ogden Hall. It was a critical time for her and her life was turned around since being there.

 My attitude about the homeless & destitute people has been altered as I’ve seen what some have faced. 

I am constantly pleased to see how UGM helps to transform lives of those who want to. It is not an easy road, but those who stay with it are given tools to make the changes needed to make their way in the world. There are those who get caught up in situations that are unintended and don’t know how to get back to better way. Then there are those who reject help and are just looking for a free meal and place to sleep. There are guidelines at UGM to assist both; however, those who truly wish to step away from their situation are given the opportunity to do so and to renew (or discover) a relationship with the Lord - the key to getting back their dignity to set them on to a better path. I’ve witnessed many a changed life in my time at UGM - it is gratifying and awesome to watch the transformation.

WayneClemensWayne Clemens, RPh 


Local pharmacist, Wayne Clemens, is a newer volunteer, filling a very unique and much appreciated role. When he retired from operating The Medicine Shoppe on NW Blvd., he decided to lend us his expertise. Much of his time at the Mission is spent sifting through donated medications, and identifying, labeling and filing them for future use. 

Genevieve: So, Wayne, tell us what you think of volunteering at UGM?

Wayne: I haven't been volunteering very long but this enhances my faith walk with Jesus. My wife and I had supported the mission for a long time, but I had no idea until I went through orientation how much UGM had expanded.

Perhaps Wayne said it best of all when he said, 

"Ultimately, the problem is solved by Jesus, but UGM deals with homelessness like nobody else." 

We believe people experiencing homelessness are people first. And as such, they possess the natural dignity that comes from being made in the likeness of God. UGM's whole-person approach to healing helps those who are willing to change find this dignity and uncover a life of joy and meaning. 


Click here to sign up for a volunteer orientation. >


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