Care with dignity in a new place


Abena* felt sick and sluggish for weeks after fleeing Ghana and arriving in Maryland. She couldn’t afford the $25 copay at a community clinic. Plus, she had more pressing matters on her mind, like fending for her son.

Asylum is a legal process that allows people fleeing from torture, violence and persecution in their home countries to seek safety here. Often not allowed to work or access benefits, 40% of asylum seekers in the US face homelessness. And like Abena, most have unmet health needs as a result of severe trauma.

“Naturally when you’re worried about your personal safety, you’re less likely to prioritize seemingly smaller health issues,” says Tiffany Nelms (pictured above), Executive Director of Asylee Women’s Enterprise (AWE).

Last August, the Health Care for the Homeless mobile clinic began delivering medical care at AWE, an organization in northeast Baltimore that connects women like Abena with food, housing, therapy and community. “Bringing care to women at AWE is extremely important,” says Community Health Worker Justine Wright. “We regularly see women who have never had a pap smear or routine screenings. Through us, they get care that would have been completely out of reach.”

This new partnership saved Abena’s life. Abena found out she had lupus, an autoimmune disorder that can be fatal without treatment. “I still help her get to appointments,” Justine says. “And she’s on the right track.”

“Homeless.” “Refugee.” Regardless of the labels that society may put on us, we all need a safe place to go when we get sick - and that place is Health Care for the Homeless.

*Abena is a pseudonym

For more ways to help women seeking asylum, visit, or

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