When you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, or where you’ll be spending the night, other things take a backseat.
But for some of the city’s most vulnerable residents, dental care doesn’t have to, thanks to a free clinic at the Ottawa Mission.
The founder and president of Health Teams International Canada, Dr. Tom Harle has been organizing foreign mission work since the 1990s. It wasn’t until several years ago, when a patient reminded him of the local need, that he began to see how he could make a difference.
Almost on a whim, Harle inquired about a possible clinic at the Ottawa Mission.
“It turned out they were in the process of opening a primary health clinic and had put aside room for a dental clinic,” he laughed.
Less than a year later, in March 2007, the Ottawa Mission Dental Clinic was born.
Today, the clinic — the biggest volunteer-based dental program serving the homeless in the country — is staffed by about 70 volunteers, including 36 dentists, 16 hygienists and 19 dental assistants. There are 14 dental labs that are providing dentures for the clinics.
Businesses also got on board with donations. As a result, the clinic costs only $500 a month to run.
The one-chair clinic is open five days a week and has seen more than 2,000 patients, providing over half a million dollars of free dentistry and more than 5,000 hours of donated time.