Preserving Dignity with a New Clinic – and the Partners Who Made it Happen

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What would you have do if all you needed was a little time to yourself, or maybe a one-on-one with a trusted confidant, if you didn’t have a space of your own? Imagine being a teenager and not having a bedroom to run to when you need to shut out the world for a few minutes. Without a bedroom—let alone a door to slam—many of the youth who come to YouthLink live with no real privacy of their own. Three of our partners have helped us to make privacy, and all that comes with it, a reality for the youth we serve.

Behind all that YouthLink does is a group of remarkable partners who are just as committed to the mission of supporting and empowering young people on their journey to self reliance as we are. So, when we decided to include a clinic remodel as part of our larger site remodel, we knew we could rely on them to help us design and build a space that would help us deliver much-needed care while still preserving the privacy and dignity of clients.

The Minnesota branch of CoreNet, a professional real estate organization, helped us reach our fundraising goals, connected us to design and contractor partners, and found creative ways to furnish the new clinic. Medica awarded us a grant to fund integrated health and wellness programming for the new space. Hennepin County Healthcare for the Homeless lent their expertise—and continues to offer care through the newly redesigned clinic.

Though they worked together, each of these partners brought a unique perspective to the project. Carol, a family nurse practitioner working with Healthcare for the Homeless, explains the goals: “Privacy and dignity were definitely the main goals. Making [the new space] look fresh while being easy-to-maintain was also important. Having a space that’s clean and designed well shows respect to clients.”

Gina, a program manager at Medica further explains how privacy and respect were woven into the design of the clinic: “As YouthLink got into the nitty gritty of working with their clients in the [former] space, they saw more need for client privacy. They were focused on delivering on that need and building trust with this project. Confidentiality and dignity are nice words, but what YouthLink does is much more than that. It really ties back to this idea of holistic wellness and working to meet all the basic needs. Dignity is a basic need. Having the space to receive these services is a basic need.”

As the goals for the clinic began to take shape, CoreNet was excited to get involved. Rome, the Minnesota chapter’s president, discusses their role: “We started the conversation in late 2017 with Dr. Heather. We talked about how we wanted to recommit to YouthLink as an organization and discussed areas where we could lend our support. As we got down the path we said, ‘Absolutely, we can take this on. What’s the vision?’”

These discussions with our partners—and our own understanding of how young people used the old space—led us to moving soundproofing and a pass-through window to the top of our construction wish list. “We had to prioritize making the space quieter, because you could hear exam room conversations in the hallway. Noise was going up through the ceiling and out. We had a sound machine in the hallway, but it wasn’t enough,” says Carol, who knows a lot about the needs of homeless in our area through her work with Healthcare for the Homeless. “Another addition was putting in a pass-through from the bathroom into the lab, so people wouldn’t have to take their samples out into the hallway.”

“The YouthLink staff do such an incredible job building relationships. Making sure the clinic design wasn’t a barrier to feeling comfortable in the environment was important,” Gina from Medica adds. “Something as seemingly minor as a pass-through window can go a long way toward building and maintaining trust with the clients.”

Carol, who has first-hand experience with how clients interact with the new clinic space described the initial reactions she heard from the young people: “We’ve asked people about the pass-through and we haven’t had many comments, which reminds us that it really is a basic need for our clients. We did have a former client who said ‘the clinic was really coming up.’ I think some of the smaller touches make a big impact. We added a library with books for all ages and left up the art the clients created in partnership with Kulture Klub. It makes them feel like it’s part of their community.” And they are a part of what makes our community tick.

Yes, the relationships with our young people have improved as a result of this project, but we’ve seen improvements in our partner relationships as well.

“YouthLink is always trying to do the most with the resources they have. They are all in it for the youth they serve. This project and the focus on privacy is an indication of that. It’s an example of how they’re trying to be there for the youth, making their lives more comfortable while using their resources effectively so they have more to give in other ways,” says Gina.

Jeff, CoreNet’s local chapter secretary, says, “This project helped get people in our organization who weren’t engaged before impassioned about this sector of the population. I think the thing that’s been most gratifying for me is to see the number of connections that have been made through member organizations and how they caught a passion for YouthLink. It’s spread in many ways I never anticipated. For that I’m very excited.”

And, here at YouthLink, we’re excited, too. Though you may not be able to hear our cheers thanks to the new soundproofing.

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