Healthy communities, healthy lives

Chris Varekamp is uninsured and is trying to learn a new trade. Jo Ann Guzman lost her job two years ago and takes care of her mother and invalid brother. There's a miniature melting pot in this small village – with immigrant families who are Vietnamese, Chinese, Somali, Kurdish, Iraqi, Irani and more.

All of these residents of Multnomah Village, tucked away in this tree-filled community in southwest Portland – and thousands more just like them – are struggling to pay their bills. But one thing they don't have to worry about is basic, essential health care.

Since 2005, the village's Southwest Community Health Center has served as a "safety net" medical home for tens of thousands of uninsured and underinsured patients. Last year, there were 12,500 patients who visited the center, which has a small paid staff of medical experts and a large network of 170 volunteers, including 90 physicians.

Providence pays the bills for the clinic – just one example of the Providence Mission of caring for the poor and vulnerable, begun nearly 155 years ago by the Sisters of Providence. Susan Mournian, RN, is clinic manager for the Southwest Community Health Center and says caring for people is the neighborly thing to do in Multnomah Village.

"People often say to me, 'Oh, you really helped me.' It's so rewarding," she said.