Diana saves lives at Crosswalk teen shelter
retired nurse uses head, hands and heart to heal homeless kids
Diana first walked through the doors at Crosswalk teen shelter on a sunny April afternoon in 2011. She had no idea at the time that we’d been waiting for someone just like her.
Crosswalk was in desperate need of a medical volunteer to evaluate kids and help them determine what care they needed.
“Kids would wait until they were really hurting and then go to the E.R. or a random clinic and wait for hours to be seen and often give up without getting help,” recalls shelter director Stephen Miller, “We really needed someone here on the front lines. Then Diana walked in out of the blue. It was a miracle.”
You see, Diana is a nurse practitioner. Complications of Multiple Sclerosis forced her to give up her position at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chewalah, but she wasn’t ready to give up her license—or her desire to help others. As a mother of eight, she loved the idea of helping youth.
Diana has been coming to Crosswalk every Wednesday afternoon for the past two years, offering health care and health advice to the homeless youth who use the shelter and its services.
“My first day volunteering, when I arrived there was already a client waiting for me,” says Diana. “The shelter has so many services in a really compact space but they created a separate clinic area where I had privacy with the kids. I was so glad to be helping right out of the gate.”
“I was impressed by the amount of volunteers at the shelter, the amount of time and effort they each provide and how willing they are to help make ends meet.”
Diana took that spirit to heart and immediately went to work finding medical supplies to stock the new Crosswalk clinic. She forged a partnership with the Department of Health, gathered donations and even bought supplies out of her own pocket.
She went to work, helping kids identify their medical needs and learn to take better care of themselves. Cases of scabies and lice disappeared entirely and other medical and hygiene issues common among homeless and street youth were properly dealt with.
In addition to individual consultations, she made opportunities to educate both kids and staff about healthy eating, exercise and preventative health measures.
Because she is always willing to go the extra mile, Diana offers more than just health care. She offers the kind of simple caring that creates a safe place for kids to go anytime they are in need.
“She creates connections with the kids who need help,” explains Stephen. “It allows them to feel open and comfortable. She makes it safe for them to really express all of their needs and makes sure they receive the proper treatment.”
“She sticks with every kid—even if they are stubborn or uncooperative at first,” says Stephen. “She does everything she can to make sure kids get the treatment they need. She explains every step of the process so they know what to expect. When a kid needs to go elsewhere for further medical attention, Diana even calls ahead to make sure someone is waiting for them so they don’t feel forgotten or give up and leave before they can be seen.”
“Diana’s helpful nature has made a massive impact here,” says Stephen. “Before she started there was a very large gap with the amount of health care that each kid was receiving and seeking. Diana has created real change here. She has bridged that gap.”
Every week, Diana makes the lives of Crosswalk kids better by handing out band-aids and sound advice. But she also saves lives—catching an early case of breast cancer and solving other life threatening issues.
“These kids deserve adequate health care,” responds Diana. “There are some large misconceptions about why kids at Crosswalk are homeless. I think people feel it’s the fault of the kid, when in reality that largely isn't the case. I see them doing what they can in a bad situation.”
“You have to realize that they are children in circumstances where they need to make adult decisions. There is no adult figure telling them what to do. It’s up to them to make mature decisions about their life and their health without any experience behind the matter. I’m here because I want to offer them my skills and experience to help in any way I can. I’m just here to encourage them to help themselves, not only medically, but in all aspects of the rest of their lives.”