UConn Health helps a man who was homeless for 40 years

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A view of UConn Health. Recently, the health team at UConn health came to aid of a man who was homeless and experiencing health problems. Courtesy of Wikimedia

The population health team at UConn Health came to the aid of a man who was homeless for 43 years, addressing his health and helping him find a home. 64-year-old Tim Guilmette endured a troubled childhood in East Hartland, Connecticut and has fended for himself since the age of six, according to a UConn Today article.  

“UConn helped me out a lot,” Guilmette said in a phone call. “I’ve lost a lot of weight, and my breathing is a little better. I think everything is going in the right direction now.”  

In 2019, Guilmette was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, along with arthritic problems and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, after being hospitalized at UConn Health.  

“I first met Tim in 2019 when he established care with me,” said Meredith Bertrand, the nurse practitioner who treated Guilmette at UConn Health. “He had just got out of the hospital for a heart failure exacerbation. He had not been taking care of himself but also had been struggling with being homeless. He showed a desire to take care of himself and get his health to a better place.”  

Guilmette said he is grateful for the help he received from UConn Health’s population health team, and especially from community health specialist Jasmine Ortiz-Rivas.  

“[Ortiz-Rivas] pushed and pushed until everyone got done what they were supposed to get done for me,” said Guilmette. “She was my guardian angel.”

According to Ortiz-Rivas, Guilmette was hesitant to work with her when the two first met in January 2021.

“[Guilmette had been] homeless for about 40 years of his life, off-and-on living in the streets, had issues with drugs—all kinds of different struggles in his life,” said Ortiz-Rivas. “He was a little hesitant to work with me, which is understandable. He said throughout his life he’s had people promise him things that [have] just never come.”

Keys to a new living space. Ortiz-Rivas helped Guilmette get housing. Photo by PhotoMix Company/Pexels

Ortiz-Rivas said that over time, Guilmette became more comfortable with her and the two formed a bond.  

“As things were happening, we gained a relationship [and] he was able to trust me, where he didn’t in the beginning,” Ortiz-Rivas added.

According to Guilmette, Ortiz-Rivas greatly contributed to finding a place for him to live.

“I reached out to a CRT program which helped him out, got him housing, but he also had to do the legwork,” said Ortiz-Rivas. “I wasn’t able to go for him; this was something that he had to do. I just put the people in front of him and he followed up with it. Thank goodness, a year and a half later he is in a safe home and his health is improving — slowly, but it’s getting there.”  

While Guilmette’s health has drastically improved since his hospitalization in 2019, there remains work to be done, according to Bertrand.  

“He still has a lot of work to do to keep himself healthy, but has already started making positive changes for himself,” she said.  

Ortiz-Rivas says she is grateful for the opportunity to have helped Guilmette with his health and housing.  

“You never know what your impact is to this one person,” she added. “The one thing I did, I was doing my job and it impacted someone so much, in such a dramatic and drastic way. I’m grateful that I was able to do this. It’s a blessing on both sides.”  

More information about the population health team can be found on UConn Health’s website.  

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