Roots and Branches: Healing and Human Connection

Sister Mary Scullion
Sister Mary Scullion

This past December 21, Project HOME joined with dozens of organizations and hundreds of persons for the annual commemoration of Homeless Persons Memorial Day, remembering those homeless and formerly homeless persons in Philadelphia who died this past year. Project HOME organized the first such gathering in 1991, and the past 30-plus years have been marked by outpourings of grief but also a constant commitment to affirming the dignity of each person and to continuing the struggle to end homelessness in our city and nation.

As Dr. Shirlana Dash from SELF, Inc. so powerfully expressed at this year’s ceremony, “Everybody we encounter on the street deserves to experience life and love and to know that they are valued.” That very idea has been at the heart of the mission of Project HOME for 35 years. We continue to find the best ways to put that mission into action, and a cornerstone of that mission has been providing healthcare to those who are homeless and on the margins.    

Lack of healthcare leads both to the tragedy of persons dying on the streets and to the shortened lives of persons who succeeded in overcoming homelessness but whose health was compromised by years on the streets. The numbers of names we recite at Homeless Persons Memorial Day have spiked dramatically in the past few years, largely due to the deadly opioid crisis which has sparked a new urgency and new challenges in providing health services to some of our most marginalized sisters and brothers.

In this newsletter you will read about our current efforts in providing both physical and mental health care to folks struggling to survive on the streets. Such efforts demand persistence to overcome enormous obstacles and a boundless compassion that refuses to accept the suffering and degradation caused by poverty, addiction, and social neglect.  

The first step in healing is often the mysterious human connection we make. The members of our medical street teams do not see “patients” but unique persons with dignity and value, with struggle and possibilities. They know that the fight is not just against the physical effects of xylazine and shigella but against the forces of dehumanization and despair. Their professional competence, infused with deep care and compassion, saves lives and sparks hope in some of the darkest corners of our city.    

We are immensely grateful to our medical street teams for their tremendous work and for the inspiration they offer all of us. We are all in need of healing. We are all capable of being agents of healing.  We all deserve to live in a society that makes sure citizens have access to quality healthcare.  The more we know these truths, the more we travel together on a path of healing and health for everyone. 

None of us are home until all of us are home®