27 9 / 2014

Simple (and Not So Simple) Ways to Help the Homeless

  • IMG_1230 - Version 2Respond with a smile and kind words—even if it is “no—sorry” when you’re asked for a handout for coffee, a meal, or spare change. There’s nothing worse than for a person to be ignored–unless it is for them to be ridiculed, called names, told to ‘just get a job,’ or to become the victim of physical violence. Speak up if you witness someone harassing or demeaning someone who appears to be…

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25 9 / 2014

‘Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me…’

statue-of-liberty-267948_640Health and Homelessness in Richmond, Virginia in the 1980s: What causes homelessness? Homelessness is often portrayed as an illness, caused either by individual flaws, such as substance abuse or mental illness, or by societal flaws including the lack of affordable housing, the weakness of our welfare system, and the deinstitutionalization of the chronically mentally ill. Advocates for the…

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23 9 / 2014

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DSC00331 - Version 3Health and Homelessness in Richmond, Virginia in the 1980s: Twenty-five years after leaving Richmond, I returned to the corner of Belvidere and Canal Streets where the Richmond Street Center had been. I searched for remains of my past work with Richmond’s outcasts, for my own past as a homeless outcast.

Standing on the street corner in Richmond, I noticed that the empty lot adjacent to the Street…

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21 9 / 2014

Cross-over Clinic: Church and State

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Cross-Over Clinic/The Richmond Street Center May 1986/Josephine Ensign

Health and Homelessness in Richmond, Virginia in the 1980s: The clinic I worked for at the Richmond Street CenterCross-Over Clinic*—was started by physician Cullen Rivers and his Presbyterian church friend, the Reverend Judson “Buddy” Childress. Buddy had been a life insurance salesman before going to seminary.  His ministry…

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19 9 / 2014

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Oregon Hill in Richmond, Virginia 2012/Josephine Ensign

Health and Homelessness in Richmond, Virginia in the 1980s: When I was growing up on the outskirts of Richmond, I was taught to avoid the area of town where I would work at The Richmond Street Center . The neighborhood it was located in–Oregon Hill–was rumored to be as white, racist, in-bred, impoverished, and violent as an isolated…

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17 9 / 2014

Virginia Relics Part Two: Eugenics

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Skeleton in the Library 2014/Josephine Ensign

Health and Homelessness in Richmond, Virginia in the 1980s: A companion to Virginia’s Racial Integrity law (see previous blog post ‘Virginia Relics Part One: Racism’), The Eugenical Sterilization Act, was also passed into Virginia law in 1924. This was part of Social Darwinism, The Progressive Movement and eugenics: bettering society through social…

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15 9 / 2014

Virginia Relics Part One: Racism

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Virginia State Capitol, Richmond 2014/Josephine Ensign

Health and Homelessness in Richmond, Virginia in the 1980s:My hometown of Richmond, Virginia is a city anchored to its past by bronze and marble Confederate shrines of memory, by an undying devotion to the cult of the Lost Cause. I was born and raised in the furrowed, relic-strewn Civil War battlefields on the city’s tattered eastern edge. A…

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13 9 / 2014

Housing is Health

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House in Richmond, Virginia 2014/Josephine Ensign

Health and Homelessness in Richmond, Virginia in the 1980s: Although I was intimidated by her when I first started working at the Richmond Street Center in 1986, I quickly came to view Sheila Crowley as a valuable mentor.

Sheila Crowleywas the Executive Director of the Daily Planet (the lead agency of the Richmond Street Center) from 1984-1992.…

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11 9 / 2014

381938823_9c01f8921d_zHealth and Homelessness in Richmond, Virginia in the 1980s: Although I wasn’t sure anyone would come to the clinic at the Richmond Street Center when it first opened (in May 1986), within the first month I had seen fifty different patients for eighty-one clinic visits–meaning patients were returning to the clinic for follow-up visits. After the second month I had seen one hundred nineteen…

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09 9 / 2014

Homeless Refuse and Refuge

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The James River and Richmond Skyline 2014/Josephine Ensign

Health and Homelessness in Richmond, Virginia in the 1980s: A half-mile south of the Richmond Street Center was the wide James River. Along the riverbanks lived a group of my patients who called themselves the River Rats.

The River Rats consisted of a dozen or so adults, mostly men, with a few women who were married or otherwise attached…

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