photo: Frederica Williams
According to Whittier Street Health Center executive director, Frederica Williams, Whittier Street has been looking for a permanent home for the last 30 years.

Now, thanks to a stimulus award, it is finally getting one.

The Whittier Street Health Center has a long history in Boston, starting from 1933 when it opened as a well baby clinic to address health issues within the low income population in the city. Over the years, the Health Center has evolved into a medical and community center that serves its neighborhoods' needs in every possible way from basic health care to a prison re-entry program to a refugee health assessment site to a geriatric clinic and more. The center recently launched an urgent care clinic and its preventive care programs include an obesity clinic, an asthma clinic and a men's health clinic.

Just eight years ago, the center was serving 5,000 people a year. These days,

Whittier Health Center Patient
that number has ballooned to 13,000 and, not surprisingly, space has become increasingly tight. Williams says that the center has tried to make due by expanding its daily hours and opening over the weekend but that has not managed to fully relieve the overcrowding.

Even more than the cramped conditions, says Williams, is the fact that without a home of their own, the Health Center is not building equity in its community. And the Whittier Street Health Center is all about community. "We establish programs to meet community needs," says Williams. "Generations of people come to us. We provide care to patients whether they have money or not." But, adds Williams, even when the Whittier Street patients manage to get healthcare coverage, they still chose to come to continue to use the Health Center.

Whittier Street received $12 million in stimulus grants which will help fund the building of its new site in Roxbury across from the Boston Police Headquarters. The 78,000-square foot building will have expanded medical care capacity, mental health care, substance abuse care and fixed mammography screening and caner care services in collaboration with Dana Farber.

Whittier Health Center Patient
"This new building will create 50 health jobs and 450 construction jobs but it will also be leaving a lasting legacy in the community," says Williams. "We couldn't have built this building without the stimulus award. We couldn't finance it."

The Health Center plans to break ground on the new building this coming September. Ironically, the new site will be right next door to the original site of the Whittier Street Health Center over 70 years ago.

"We are going back home," says Williams.