The Hollingsworth Health Clinic was named in honor of longtime Fort Walton Beach physician, businessman and One Hopeful Place donor Dr. Gerald Hollingsworth, who was among about 100 community and business leaders and health care professionals present for Thursday's opening.

FORT WALTON BEACH — The One Hopeful Place shelter marked a milestone Thursday with an official ribbon cutting for a onsite medical clinic.

The Hollingsworth Health Clinic was named in honor of longtime Fort Walton Beach physician, businessman and One Hopeful Place donor Dr. Gerald Hollingsworth, who was among about 100 community and business leaders and health care professionals present for Thursday's opening.

"Having a medical facility was always part of the initial master plan for One Hopeful Place," shelter Executive Director Nathan Monk said.

The clinic is housed in a 1,500-square-foot portable classroom donated by the Okaloosa County School District. It was renovated during the past year using $37,400 in Community Development Block Grant program funding from the city of Fort Walton Beach.

The building has a reception area, three interview and exam rooms and an office for Monk.

Although the official opening was Thursday, Monk said the clinic has been providing care to clients for about two months through its partnership with Bridgeway Center.

"Currently on Wednesdays we are providing psychiatric care, therapy and substance-abuse counseling," Monk said. "As the program continues to expand and more people start coming in, we will move it to a couple of more days a week, and in January we'll be providing primary care."

Monk stressed the importance of having an onsite clinic dedicated to helping the area's homeless population.

"When you're living out in a tent and you wake up in the morning you're thinking about survival: Where can I eat? Where can I sit down? Where can I use the restroom?" Monk said. "You're not thinking 'I need to get to my medical appointment on time.' "

Monk said the clinic allows One Hopeful Place to provide its clients with the care they need, when they need it and in a much more cost-effective manner.

"It can cost an average of $45,000 to $65,000 per person per year for them to live on the streets, because they're having to abuse the health care system," he said. "They're going to the ER because it's cold or they have a cold, and they're being arrested for things like sleeping outside."

According to Fort Walton Beach Medical Center spokeswoman Denise Kendust, the hospital in 2017 wrote off more than $23.3 million worth of health care that was provided to various types of people who did not have health insurance.

In comparison, Monk said, the typical six-month stay at One Hopeful Place seems like a bargain at about $1,500.