Big green bus fights hunger

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Englewood resident Theresa O’Connor was just one of at least 65 people to visit the big green Hunger Free Colorado bus at Littleton’s Bemis Public Library Aug. 19 for help and information.

O’Connor, who cares full time for her disabled husband, said she was there particularly to find out about dental care, but she found a lot more that was useful. Every little bit helps, she said.

The Community Accessing Resources Together event, sponsored by the South Metro Health Alliance, shared information on how to get help with food and housing costs, medical and dental insurance and mental-health care, among other things. Benjamin Aymami from Cricket was there to explain how people receiving certain types of government aid are also eligible for help with their cell-phone bills, and Doug Bega from Hunger Free Colorado was helping people sign up for assistance with food and housing on the spot.

“We’re really pleased with the turnout,” said Traci Jones of SMHA. “Some people have been really touched. We’ve had some people thanking us with tears in their eyes.”

SMHA grew out of the work of the Littleton Immigrant Integration Initiative’s Health and Wellness Program, which brought together a wide range of health-care providers starting in 2006. In 2011, the program earned a start-up grant of $175,000 from the Colorado Health Foundation.

Today, it’s grown to include dozens of organizations that serve the uninsured and underinsured population of Arapahoe and Douglas counties, like TLC Meals on Wheels, Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network, Inter-Faith Community Services and Doctors Care.

“Our vision is for the South Metro Health Alliance to be the convener of our community to address the changing landscape of health care,” reads SMHA’s website. “The SMHA will ensure that there is no ‘wrong door’ for people seeking care by helping health care providers understand the needs of the vulnerable patient population and the resources available to treat the whole person.”

The group plans more mobile CART events, with the next one set for Sept. 23 at TLC Meals on Wheels, 7300 S. Clermont Drive in Centennial.

“This feels like a small community, but some people don’t know about all of the resources that are out here,” said Bernadette Frausto of Doctors Care.