Kim steps out from behind the counter at the last truck stop just west of Salt Lake City. Behind the storefront, twisted highways connect together toward the cityscape. Kim refills her coffee mug and walks out the door to her bus stop. Relieved that her shift is over for the day, Kim lets out a sigh and smiles. She loves the feeling of having a job to finish each day.
It wasn’t long ago when Kim wasn’t smiling. She was taking care of her parents, both sick and bedridden, for almost 20 years. Kim’s teeth were broken and worn down from eating ice, something she did to take her mind off the stress of caregiving.
“For twenty years my teeth were worn down to nubs. I could hardly eat anymore. They were broken down to almost nothing,” Kim explains. When her mother had a stroke in 1994, she quit her job to take care of her parents full-time. She continued to care for her father in his house, but in 2014 her father defaulted on his reverse mortgage. They owed the bank $95,000; neither Kim nor her father had the money to purchase the house. Her father soon passed away, and Kim lost the home.
“In 2014, I became homeless. I couch surfed, stayed with family members or friends,” Kim stated. But it was difficult for her to escape the burden of homelessness: her broken teeth kept her from getting a job, and she lacked insurance or the means for treatment. Her health declined, and it became harder to cover the costs of her medications. After some consideration, Kim decided to become a patient at Fourth Street Clinic, the homeless health care clinic in Salt Lake City.
“Most people hate going to the dentist, but our clients are always so grateful to smile again.”
That same year, Fourth Street Clinic also went through some major changes. Thanks to Alsco®, the linen and uniform rental company based in Salt Lake City, a four-chair dental clinic was opened to the homeless community. An ongoing donation of $125,000 per year is given to Fourth Street Clinic by Alsco to operate the dental clinic, providing the homeless community access to quality oral care. The Alsco branch in Salt Lake also provides a weekly free rental service to Fourth Street Clinic personnel and volunteers, providing scrubs and other necessary items – an estimated cost of more than $50,000 each year.
Dr. Ron Kehl, the dentist at Fourth Street Clinic, has over 1,300 visits each year – with multiple procedures performed at each visit. “Most people hate going to the dentist,” Dr. Kehl began, “but our clients are always so grateful to have a mouth full of healthy teeth. We’re grateful to Alsco for their generosity in helping this dental clinic operate for our patients.” Because of his expertise and the ongoing donations from Alsco, Kim can’t stop smiling.
“My intention was to get dentures and have the clinic fix the teeth they could, but Dr. Kehl said ‘let’s try to fix your teeth; they’re in good shape, except that they’re worn down.’ I really love Fourth Street Clinic,” Kim said. The dental clinic was able to provide Kim with crowns at no cost to her. Her new smile gave her the confidence she needed to land her full-time job, and is now living in an apartment outside Salt Lake City.
“It feels good to smile again,” Kim exclaims.