Health Care for the Homeless Day - #NHCW17

Advocacy through Art: Daily Planet Health Services Work with Richmond’s Homeless Population

The theme of National Health Center Week this year - Celebrating America’s Health Centers: The Key to Healthier Communities - is meant to recognize the ways in which health centers serve as the foundation of health within their community. As we kickoff this incredible week of celebration, we have designated days within the week to showcase key elements of success within the Health Center Program. Today we are highlighting Health Care for the Homeless Centers including the more than 1.2 million patients health centers serve who experience homelessness. Maureen Neal, COO, Advancement of Daily Planet Health Services (DAILY PLANET), a health center based in Richmond, VA, will talk about the work they do to address the unique and critical needs of those experiencing homelessness in their community. Maureen’s story is one of creating a culture of advocacy through art, and the ways in which these advocacy initiatives benefit the entire community.

Daily Planet is one of so many health centers that seems to do it all – in addition to providing comprehensive, coordinated care to their patients, they have established student internship programs and community outreach initiatives to ensure the community has access to the wide array of support, resources and learning opportunities they need to be healthy and successful.Daily Planet provides quality care to everyone who visits the center, but goes far beyond the traditional call to meet the unique needs of Richmond’s homeless population. This health center works extensively with those experiencing homelessness within the Richmond area and its surrounding communities. Recognizing the needs of their community both in terms of health care and in broader life circumstances, Daily Planet provides a holistic treatment model incorporating innovative and empowering advocacy collaborations between the arts and health care. Maureen Neal and the entire advancement team working with clinicians at Daily Planet help make some of these innovative initiatives possible.

Richmond, Virginia is home to one of the country’s top art schools– the city is full of young artists, galleries, and creative projects working to make the city a more beautiful and interesting place to live. Daily Planet recognized an opportunity to bridge the gap between the Richmond art world and the vulnerable population they serve – they began working with artist-in-residence programs and staff behavioral health therapists to produce four plays and performances for the community. Actors in these plays are individuals who had at one point experienced homelessness, or are currently experiencing homelessness. The program empowers patients and provides and incredible outlet through participation in these productions. Participants  design the nature of the performance, write the play itself, and preform for the community-at-large.

Most recently, an artist-in-residence program collaborated with Daily Planet and a private donor to design a truly unique creative opportunity. The philanthropist funded the purchase of digital cameras, which were provided to the play participants/actors—in this case, nine women utilizing services at the health center. These women were taught the fundamentals of digital photography and charged to capture images that were meaningful to them. During the performance, participants shared spoken-word poetry, dramatic readings, monologues, etc. while their photographs were on exhibit and available for purchase following the performances. The proceeds benefited the photographers directly – an incredibly empowering process and skill set that could be carried on well after the performance. This collaborative effort provided a therapeutic opportunity for the participants, and it also increased awareness for Daily Planet’s work in the City of Richmond. Patients served as advocates for behavioral and mental health, and most importantly, as advocates for themselves.  The plays offered a creative method for putting the health center mission into action while sharing it with the community.

Most recently, two behavioral health counselors established an arts expression group.  The group’s creative expression can take on any form within the visual or performing arts.  The group meets weekly and is supported by a peer artist who encourages and inspires each member’s authentic voice in their creations.

Using art to advocate for and empower those experiencing homelessness has been both an enlightening and a productive way to change the conversation about homelessness and begin to reduce the stigma associated with homelessness. Daily Planet’s work emphasizes the humanity in everyone, regardless of their circumstances.

Health centers across the country, including Daily Planet, truly represent what holistic healing community-based organizations can create. The ability of health centers to address needs that go beyond the physical ailments on a regular basis is not only invaluable, but transformative for patients and the community at large. Every day Daily Planet strives to serve their community in a caring and respectful way.  We are proud and grateful to share this powerful example of the ways in which health centers care for their patients and community with dignity, respect, and empowerment. 

To learn more about Daily Planet, go to dailyplanetva.org.

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