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Remembering the most vulnerable

The people who knew Ginger Rivera called her mom and when was dying in hospice care, dozens of people lined up outside the door to say their goodbyes.  


Ginger, 63, passed away in November.  She had a passion for helping the homeless and worked as a server at St. Vincent de Paul of North Idaho’s soup kitchen. 


“My mom loved helping people,” said Scott Parker, who also works at Heritage Health as a homeless outreach worker. “And people loved her for that.” 


Ginger stopped by Heritage Health’s Street Medicine program on a regular basis. Ginger is being remembered for her service to the community and her kind heart.  


Roughly 22 under-housed or underserved people die every day across the country. Locally, Heritage Health lost six of its patients in 2022.

“Being homeless shortens the average lifespan of a person by 17.5 years,” said Kala Hall, a case manager with Heritage Health. “Living on the streets, or in your car is extremely hard on the body.” 


Here are the people our community lost this year as remembered by the Heritage Health Street Medicine team.  



  • Robert Simpson: Robert was a kind soul. He was always willing to lend a helping hand, even when he was struggling. Robert loved his mom and his family, and the happy stories he would tell often involved someone from his family. Robert was a natural conversationalist and loved talking with people.  


  • Jason Tyree: You could spot Jason from a mile away, whether it was his towering height or his booming laugh, you knew when Jason was around. Jason had mechanical skills and could fix vehicles and other things. Jason had a rough exterior, but you could tell he was caring and kind. It took him a long time to open up, but once he did he let you see he had a kind heart and was quite silly and flirtatious.  


  • Tabitha Devine: Tabitha was feisty. She was witty and sarcastic, and even when she didn’t feel well she would still show her awesome sense of humor. She always knew that Heritage Health Street Medicine was a safe haven. Tabitha would give a look, it’s hard to describe, kind of a side eye and smirk when she was being facetious.  


  • Joel Grover: Joel’s nickname was “Hollywood” because he was always dressed well and looked like he belonged on a movie set. He was “cool” and really loved his car. Joel never asked for much, he never wanted to take more than what was needed for fear of someone else missing out. He was always willing to lend a hand when he was around.  


  • Ryan Peppers: Ryan really changed his life around over a five-year period and it was great to see him go from living on the street homeless and feeling lost to housed, hopeful, and having a sense of purpose. Ryan had a smile that would light up a room, and his love for God, his friends, and his community was wonderful to witness. Ryan would give the shirt off his back and shoes off his feet if it meant helping someone. 


  • Shelly Ausmus: Shelly was a tough cookie. Shelly was someone who had come to us at the end of the rope and during her time with us she experienced getting housed. Shelly and her husband came to the Street Medicine team to tell us they had received housing, and the way she lit up about the place they were getting was uplifting. Shelly was very well educated, previously working as a social worker.  


Homelessness directly impacted on the lifespan of these individuals. To make a donation to Heritage Health’s Street Medicine go to 


Impacting people 

Heritage Health receives $4 million grant

The demand for behavioral health services in North Idaho greatly exceeds available services.

Options are limited for residents who need treatment for substance abuse disorders and mental health conditions and many people are going without the treatment they desperately need, said Panhandle Health District Director Don Duffy.


“We struggle with having enough mental health resources in our community,” said Duffy. “Patients can have a three to a six-month waiting period before they can see a mental health professional and that is tragic.”

The North Idaho Crisis Center, a partnership comprised of Kootenai Health, Panhandle Health District and Heritage Health, serves men and women from Idaho’s 10 northern counties who need immediate help to de-escalate behavioral health crisis situations.

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