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One of the serious unmet needs of most homeless people - besides the lack of money and housing - is critical medical and dental care. Most go without until problems get so severe that they are full-blown crises.

Volunteer doctors have been trying to provide some help in limited quarters at the Salt Lake City homeless shelter and volunteer dentists have been working out of the St. Vincent de Paul Center across the street. But the quarters were so cramped and materials so scarce that badly needed dentist volunteers were being turned away.All that will change July 21, thanks to Intermountain Health Care and other community groups. IHC has donated a new clinic at 404 S. 400 West, within walking distance of the homeless shelters. The 5,800-square-foot combined clinic includes a lobby and waiting area, patient examining rooms, four dentist chairs, space for optometrists and opthalmologists, and a procedure room. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints contributed $73,000 for new equipment and supplies.

The clinic is more than just badly needed space. It includes air conditioning and heating systems designed to filter out airborne infections, one of the more common ailments of the homeless.

The IHC-donated facility will make a profound difference in the medical care for many homeless people. Some 5,000 to 6,000 people a month were being treated each year at the old quarters in the homeless shelter. That office will continue to stay open 18 hours a day to provide on-site emergency services. The numbers being treated will probably rise as a result of the new clinic and its room for additional doctors, dentists and others.

But as helpful as the new clinic will be, the heart of the program is the medical and dental volunteers. Most of the medical care is provided by retired physicians. More than 150 dentists have provided several hours a month. About 20 volunteers provide optical care. And student volunteers from the University of Utah are a major resource.

These good people, who work without pay, are giving of themselves in behalf of others who need their help and would suffer without it. Their reward is the deep inner satisfaction and peace that money cannot buy.