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Nurse Gives Homeless Community a Pathway to Housing


Juju McClain-Riggins is bridging the gap between the local homeless population and the Philly healthcare industry. She spends her days going checking in on Philadelphia folk experiencing homelessness and now she’s being honored as part of Independence Blue Cross’s 5th Annual Celebrate Caring Campaign during this year’s National Nurses’ Week.

McClain-Riggins’s colleagues note that she starts everyday dancing to the beat of her favorite song. She then passes that energy and optimism on to her clients.

“That’s just what helps me to stay upbeat and just happy and thankful,” McClain-Riggins said.

She is a registered nurse with Pathways to Housing PA, a non-profit health organization that provides house calls to unhoused individuals and those struggling with drug addiction and abuse. For McClain-Riggins, that means traveling to some of the city’s roughest neighborhoods, but that doesn’t stop her from doing her job.

“I just like that part of it, being able to go in and let somebody who might otherwise not feel special, feel special. Let them know they’re loved, they’re important, we care about you, whatever concerns you, concerns me. That type of thing,” McClain-Riggins said.

But she isn’t just there to give them medication or to treat their wounds. McClain-Riggins goes one step further by doing their hair or bringing them clean clothes. She got her compassionate side from her father, who was known for spreading love throughout the community.

 “When I was growing up, I was a pastor’s child, so a preacher’s kid. And we were just taught heavily that you’re supposed to treat others as Christ wants you to and just give respect to all those,” McClain-Riggins explained. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a homeless person on the street or the prime minister. Whoever I meet, I treat them all the same.”

The RN was recently honored for her contributions to the city as one of the three winners of the Celebrate Caring Campaign. She is currently working toward getting her master’s degree in nursing and says she recommends the profession to anyone with a caring spirit.

“I cannot stress enough her energy,” Kristina Scalia-Jackson, Director of Center of Excellence for Opioid Use Disorder, said. “When she comes in just really happy to be here, it’s like, OK, things could be a lot worse. It makes you just realize we’re all here for a reason, we all like what we do.”

“I can’t think of a person, honestly, that is more deserving,” Wakida Williams, Assistant Clinical Director at Pathways to Housing PA, added. “Her level of compassion, honestly, is just very much unmatched. No job is too big or too small for her. And it actually takes a special, unique person to do community nursing. Most nurses are used to being in hospitals and facilities, but Juju is out there on the frontlines each and every day.”

Christina Milligan, a nurse at CHOP Primary Care in Paoli, was also honored. She has been a nurse for over a decade and specializes in working with young girls battling depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.

“She’s very good at speaking with teenage girls,” said Karen Rohleder, one of Milligan’s colleagues and a nurse for 30 years. “We have a lot of mental health issues right now in our community and she’s excellent.”

“She is so amazing at explaining things,” added Madelyn Dougherty, another nurse at CHOP. “She not only takes the time with her patients but takes the time with her fellow staff to really explain and go over things. She’s always willing to answer any question.”

Milligan is more than a nurse to her patients. She’s a friend and advocate.

“She shows up for her patients every single day,” Mallory Adams said. “She treats every patient like they’re her only patient that she needs to see. She really spends the time she needs to spend to educate and form connections with her patients.”

Steven Briggs
Steven Briggs is a healthcare writer for Scrubs Magazine, hailing from Brooklyn, NY. With both of his parents working in the healthcare industry, Steven writes about the various issues and concerns facing the industry today.

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