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NMCP Dentists Help Norfolk's Homeless

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Riza Caparros
Naval Medical Center Portsmouth Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- A group of Navy dentists volunteered their time and skills to help the less fortunate in Hampton Roads when they participated in Project Homeless Connect April 21 at the Norfolk Scope.

Thirteen dental residents from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth and the Sewells Point Dental Clinic set up in a corner of the arena. In their makeshift dental clinic, they were prepared to provide teeth cleanings, tooth extractions, fillings and filling repairs. During the daylong event, the group treated 155 patients.

Scope quickly filled with local homeless people as word got around about the bi-annual event, which is now in its fifth year. Lt. Cody Nelson, general practice resident at the medical center, described the event as a challenging, yet positive, experience.

"The challenges we face here are ones we don't normally face in the population that we are used to treating," Nelson said. "The patient population here is of a lower social population and, given that, there is a higher percentage of untreated chronic systemic disease. We need to keep that in mind as we assess the patient for treatment using clinical judgment based on the limited information the patient provides to us. Even though the conditions are not ideal, it feels great to serve the community."

Project Homeless Connect attracted 584 people who came from all over Hampton Roads in order to take advantage of the many free services offered. Other than dentistry and medical wellness screenings, barber services, job search, referral and training, housing services, legal services and free phone calls were available. They could also receive information about social services, such as the application process and screening for food stamps, Medicaid and obtaining identification cards.

Some 500 volunteers came out to help.

Linda Hodle, a volunteer for Project Homeless Connect, was amazed at the number of services offering assistance.

"I was homeless five years ago and there was nothing like this back then," Hodle said. "I am happy that I was able to get better, and now I am able to help the homeless out there today. I hope a lot of the people who come here can get the help they need and have a better life."

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