Homeless Not Toothless is a 501C(3) nonprofit dedicated to providing free and quality dental care to the homeless, foster youth, and low-income persons in Los Angeles, bringing back one smile at a time. The organization also aims to empower the homeless and underserved by providing access to becoming part of the mainstream work force again.
Homeless Not Toothless (HNT) began in 1992 when founder and president, Dr. Jay Grossman, decided giving money or leftover food to the homeless he passed by was no longer sufficient. One day, while reaching for another dollar bill to hand out to another homeless man, Dr. Jay felt his business card. Not knowing if that card would or could make a difference, he went with his gut.
"So instead of a dollar, I gave him my business card. I said, ‘Let me see what I can do about getting you out of pain and replacing those missing teeth so you can function by eating and look good for a job interview. That’ll give you more benefit than my giving you a buck."
Within seven months of handing out that first business card, he had performed more than 100 procedures on the homeless free of charge. Soon after, more and more homeless patients began walking into his dental practice, encouraging Dr. Jay to expanded his office space and search for partnership.
The Venice Family Center (VFC), a nonprofit that provides free health care services to the underserved located minutes away from Dr. Jay's practice, quickly became a partner for HNT. Together, rules and guidelines were created for what is now HNT. First and foremost, all patients must prove a minimum of 90 days sobriety, a screening the Venice Family Clinic conducts. And secondly, all patients must be actively engaged in finding work.
Since its inception in 1992, Homeless Not Toothless has provided more than $3 million in services. The dentists who volunteer their time pay for all expenses and work with labs who donate their services.
Just over a decade after opening the HNT doors, Dr. Jay had the opportunity to join forces with actress and philanthropist Sharon Stone in her nonprofit, Planet Hope. Since then and together, the two rebuilt a dental facility to extend free dental care to the 28,000 foster youth living in Los Angeles.
Some of HNT's pro bono patients have included an elderly ex-convict who had no teeth and had had to survive on a liquid diet for 40 years; a 5-year-old whose teeth were so blackened by decay that he had been ridiculed at school; and a 50-year-old, John, who had spiraled into homelessness as a result of a methamphetamine addiction, losing his construction business and his family in the process.
"My goal is to expand Homeless Not Toothless nationwide. This is my way of giving back to my community and doing what I can in helping to repair the world.”
As of 2017, HNT has treated more than 50,000 patients, including veterans, homeless, and foster youth, providing more than $3 million in services, and more than three-dozen additional dental practices now offer Homeless Not Toothless services.