Martin Barrientos says the homeless can get nasty blisters on their feet after walking for days on end. The blisters can become infected if left untreated. The homeless also get bad skin rashes from too much sun.
That's why Barrientos, 60, said he welcomes the prospect of a free health clinic for the homeless opening in the fall at The Salvation Army shelter at Ninth and D streets.
"We need something like that, especially for people with diabetes," said Barrientos, who has been homeless since getting out of jail four months ago.
The clinic would join others that care for the homeless, such as the Modesto Gospel Mission's twice-a-week clinic staffed by volunteer doctors and nurses, Golden Valley Health Centers' Corner of Hope and Calvary Temple's HOPE Medivan, which treats the homeless and working poor on Saturdays.
"We want to work with them and not duplicate services," said Maj. Darvin Carpenter with The Salvation Army's Modesto Citidel Corps. "We see this as a complementary service. We don't want the others to stop doing what they are doing."
The Salvation Army clinic would be the first time Modesto's four big service clubs -- the Rotary, Lions, Soroptimists and Kiwanis -- have worked together on a local project, said Chris Currie, a member of the Modesto Sunrise Rotary Club and one of the leaders in the effort.
"The buzz of every organization is we should be collaborative," said Patricia Gillum, a past district governor of Lions Club International and a Modesto 500 Lions Club member. "We can all do bigger projects and help the community in a bigger way if we work together."
Carpenter said top officials with the four service organizations agreed to support the project at an April meeting.
Currie now is soliciting support from a dozen individual clubs. He's spoken to about half of them in the past six weeks. He also has raised about $10,000 and needs an additional $20,000.
He's recruiting doctors, nurses, optometrists and other health care providers to run the clinic. The clinic also needs volunteers to work with the homeless with referrals to other caregivers and services, and on the paperwork to apply for health insurance and free or discounted prescription drug programs.
Currie has a tentative agreement with Golden Valley to help the clinic. Carpenter is talking with Modesto's three hospitals about providing assistance.
But Currie's main focus is on getting the volunteer-staffed clinic built. It will consist of four exam rooms and six offices.
Currie said he has commitments from plumbers, electricians and other tradespeople to volunteer their labor. Lumberyards, hardware stores and other vendors have said they'd donate the materials or sell them at cost.
The goal is for the clinic to open Nov. 1, when The Salvation Army opens its winter shelter.
The details have not been firmed up, but the clinic will offer basic medical, dental and optometry care.
There is a great need for eye care, said Katherine Jones, patient care coordinator and outreach representative with Golden Valley's Corner of Hope, which provides medical and dental care for the homeless.
"One of the things keeping the homeless from getting jobs is they can't see well enough," she said. "They need glasses so they can drive a truck."
Carpenter said the homeless also need care after being beaten up, taking a bad fall or being knocked down by a car. And those who have gone to the emergency room often need follow-up care, such as having their wounds cleaned.
The clinic also will hand out toothbrushes, toothpaste and other hygiene items.
"This is going to help the community of Modesto tremendously," Currie said. "It will push the homeless into a situation where they can get jobs. It will not fix all of the homeless or do it overnight, but it will make a difference."
This isn't the only major change for The Salvation Army shelter.
Carpenter said the shelter should begin construction on an expansion as early as May 2011. That work is planned to bring a kitchen and dining room and a room with special needs beds for the homeless who need bed rest.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2316.