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'It's good to know that we're not alone': Valley health nonprofit spreads Christmas cheer, checkups to people battling homelessness and COVID-19

Circle the City physician assistant Alisha Crabtree calls her job caring for homeless patients a labor of love she discovered as a little girl.

PHOENIX —

Imagine celebrating the Christmas holiday alone; without a roof over your head and battling a virus that's killed nearly 24,000 people in Arizona. 

That is the reality for some people living on the streets. 

But for those fortunate enough to find their way to Circle the City (CTC), there is hope. 

The Valley nonprofit has partnered with Maricopa County to serve homeless people who've tested positive for COVID-19. Medical teams are currently caring for patients at a hotel in north Phoenix near the I-17. 

Physician Assistant (PA-C) Alisha Crabtree is a provider lead working with a team around the clock to care for patients as they recover. 

"They are COVID positive patients that are under quarantine," said Crabtree. "Where we can take care of them and ensure they are getting the best care and three meals a day." 

Living out her dream as a little girl born out of her own hardships

Alisha's work as a PA-C for Circle the City is a labor of love. 

"I grew up underserved with a single mom, we didn't have much," said Crabtree. "When I was little, I wanted to be a physician; that was the plan for me." 

Her journey to becoming a PA-C however wasn't easy. Alisha dropped out of school at the age of 14 and gave birth to her child six years later. It wasn't until she was 25 that she went back to school.  

"I did my bachelor's and my master's and I really started to search out what's my end goal," said Crabtree. "My end goal was providing care to those who are underserved to those who are homeless that maybe like myself as a little girl didn't have access to care.”

Omicron variant hitting the homeless hard

Circle the City has seen a rise of COVID-positive patients due to the highly contagious omicron variant. They are currently caring for more than 20 patients at the hotel. 

“I feel safe, that I'm not gonna be let go until I'm fine with COVID I got really sick and not being able to breathe,” said CTC patient Geraldo, grateful to have a warm bed as he recovers from the virus. 

This Christmas the CTC team is passing out gifts in the form of blankets and socks which were donated by a local church. 

“To be away from our family for the holidays, you know, you're not around your family,” said patient Vincent Montes who goes by the nickname "Papa," away from his two small children after he tested positive.  "COVID kicks in and it just scared me; what if I don’t survive it," said Papa. 

Providing hope on Christmas   

Gifts come in many forms but for the patients staying at the hotel, the work of CTC is one of health and hope. 

"You ladies are a gift, like I said, I don't know what I will be if I wasn't for this program,” said Geraldo. 

They may be away from family, but family can be more than blood. The connection between Alisha and the CTC team has been able to fill a void for their patients. 

“It's good to know that we're not alone," said Papa. "You know, even though we might be here alone by ourselves, but there's people around us, you know, that makes us feel like we're family."

Circle the City

Circle the City offers a recuperative medical respite care model where individuals experiencing homelessness can recuperate and receive daily medical care and round-the-clock (24/7) nursing support.

"Circle the City offers four mobile medical units to deliver outreach medical services to some of the most vulnerable in our communities," according to the organization's website. 

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