Community partnerships strategy minimized pandemic’s impact at GRACE, city’s largest shelter

Press release from Grace Healthcare Services Corp

The pandemic significantly curtailed Grace Clinic operations at GRACE Marketplace, Gainesville’s largest homeless shelter. The GRACE campus went into lockdown at the pandemic onset in March, 2020. In April, 2020, widespread COVID testing of GRACE residents and staff was provided by UF as part of an Emerging Pathogens Institute research protocol.  

Shortly thereafter, Grace Healthcare Services began regular COVID testing twice weekly, which became a critical component of GRACE’s careful re-opening strategy several months later. 1,747 COVID tests were given from April 2020 – April 2021, including repeat testing periodically for all GRACE residents and staff. Grace Healthcare tested all prospective new residents, and GRACE quarantined them on campus until the test results were available. This allowed rapid identification of COVID-positive individuals with offsite quarantine for those COVID-positive provided by Alachua County and prompt contact tracing with onsite quarantine and further COVID testing.  

From April, 2020, to April, 2021, Grace Healthcare detected 15 COVID-positive individuals, promptly moving them off campus, leaving no evidence of COVID transmission within the GRACE community. This provided a significant benefit to this vulnerable population experiencing homelessness, as well as to the Gainesville community at large.

The result of this strategy, the partnership between Grace Healthcare Services (of which Grace Clinics are a part), the Alachua Area Medical Reserve Corp and Department of Health, GRACE Marketplace, the City of Gainesville, and Alachua County, was that GRACE was safely brought back to full capacity (120 residents from a low of about 70 residents at the end of lockdown).  

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The Grace Clinics continued to serve patients living at GRACE throughout the pandemic. With the pandemic subsiding, increased availability of point-of-care COVID testing, and COVID vaccinations (373 given from January – April, 2021), these clinics will hopefully be able to also open to medically underserved patients not residing at GRACE by later this month.  

Facilities at Grace Clinic, the medical clinic located at GRACE Marketplace, 3055 NE 28th Dr, Gainesville, have been greatly improved thanks to an expansion initiated by the non-profit organization, Grace Healthcare Services Corp.  

Generous community donors made the project possible. The UF Medical Guild provided a grant through which the new facility was furnished, fully equipped, and stocked with medical supplies. Rebuilding Together of North Central Florida, a local non-profit, donated construction labor with the cost of materials, electrical work, and administrative expense paid by Grace Healthcare Services. Plumbing work was donated by Nate O’Donnell, the owner of Lumberjack Plumbing, and the additional space was provided rent-free by GRACE and the City of Gainesville.

The Grace Clinic upgrade and expansion includes two fully enclosed, sound-dampened, exam rooms with an adjacent patient registration and waiting room. This more than doubles the size of the facility, increasing capacity, accommodating more healthcare providers, and assuring greater privacy during patient encounters.

With the greatly improved Grace Clinic facility, the organizations operating free medical clinics on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (Alachua Area Medical Reserve Corps, Helping Hands Clinic, and the UF Mobile Outreach Clinic), will be able to provide enhanced services to a larger number of individuals.