Basic health care is out of reach for some Newark area residents because of barriers such as cost and lack of transportation. That prevents them from accessing testing for illnesses, vaccinations and essential medications, so Newark Homeless Outreach offered those things and more over the weekend at the organization’s facility in downtown Newark.

Newark Homeless Outreach is a project of OhioCAN (Change Addiction Now), and it invited those in need of Hepatitis C treatment and testing, rapid testing for HIV and Hepatitis A, and vaccinations for COVID-19 and flu during a public health clinic on Saturday morning.

Volunteers are at the Homeless Outreach facility on E. Main Street each Saturday morning to provide hygiene products, warm clothing, food and harm reduction kits to those battling addiction. They often serve 75 to 125 people a week, and this past weekend, the organization was joined by volunteers from other groups to provide some basic health care.

NHO partnered with Family Health Services of East Central Ohio, the Central Outreach Wellness Center and the Licking County Health Department to offer services at the event. The Christ Lutheran Youth Group, the Newark Think Tank on Poverty, the Lower Lights Christian Health Center and a number of community volunteers provided food, soft drinks, and safety and hygiene products.

More than 80 people received these goods and good cheer. Of those people, 21 also accessed the treatment and testing services. Nancy Welu, an NHO volunteer, said most attendees are unsheltered.

Event volunteers cited the importance of helping vulnerable community members who don’t always have access to services.

“They think that (Newark is) the most resourceful little town, but we’re not,” said NHO co-founder Trish Perry.

Some people slip through the cracks because they can’t afford health insurance or the fees for vaccinations and virus testing. Access to them is particularly pertinent for Ohioans at this time, Welu said, because of the risk of contracting an illness. COVID is still prevalent, for example, and the risk of hepatitis remains. The Ohio Department of Health investigated a statewide Hepatitis A outbreak from 2018-2022.

“There’s so many barriers that keep people from getting routine health care,” said Katie Cain of the Lower Lights Christian Health Center. “Being out in the community is really big for us.”

Newark Homeless Outreach previously hosted a free public health clinic in July 2022, and the group hopes to make the clinics biannual.

The organization welcomes people to its facility at 184 E. Main St. every Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. There, people in need can receive meals, clothing, harm-reduction supplies and other necessities.

NHO has few barriers to service, and Welu said volunteers offer to help anyone.

“I don’t care if you’re high, drunk; it doesn’t matter, as long as you’re not disruptive,” Welu said. “We serve everybody.”

Anyone interested in volunteering on Saturday mornings can simply show up at 184 E. Main St., and they can learn more on the organization’s Facebook page.