As a result of guest input and the need to expand our health services beyond crisis intervention, we have developed a Wellness Program which encompasses both prevention and intervention services. We currently have nurses and doctors from Women of Means and Boston Health Care for the Homeless on-site at the Women's Lunch Place five days a week. This urgent care model assists those guests with immediate needs and those guests who have trouble seeking care from the more traditional model of primary care. There are also medical case managers on-site from the two healthcare organizations that assist guests in signing up for Massachusetts Health and other benefits as well as making appointments with specialists, providing the necessary services to get the guest to the appointment, and following-up on appointments with guests. In addition to this medical care, we have a psychiatrist who comes to the Women's Lunch Place regularly and HIV counseling and testing performed on-site. Based on the needs of the guests, we are looking to provide more in-house intervention services related to dental, eye, mental heath, nutrition, and foot care.
In addition to these traditional medical services, we also provide the guests with opportunities to participate in yoga classes, massages, reiki, meditation, and stress-management groups. The final piece of the Wellness Program includes information dissemination. The guests have requested more information regarding diseases and how they can better take care of their health. As part of this, there is information and flyers available in multiple languages regarding the diseases of greatest concern, including: cancer (breast, cervical, ovarian, lung), heart disease, and diabetes. We also invite outside collaborators to speak to the women about prevention and mitigation of symptoms. For those guests who need more intensive services related to any of these health-related issues, staff are available to make referrals to appropriate programs.
Creative Expressions Program
The Creative Expressions Program provides opportunities for women to express themselves through art, music, drama, and dance. We have interns and volunteers who facilitate various creative expression activities including, but not limited to: painting, drawing, photography, relaxation through movement, and jewelry-making. We also have volunteers who lead weekly art, writing, and reading groups. Additionally we have knitting and sewing classes, where many women have made beautiful scarves, hats, mittens and bags throughout the years.
The Creative Expressions Program truly has incredibly talented artists. Various works of art hangs throughout the shelter, making our walls come alive. We hope the Creative Expression Program will provide women many creative outlets and encourage expression. Poverty and homelessness take a heavy toll on a woman's spirit. Beyond food, clothing and shelter, people need connection, need to be valued, trust others and express themselves. This program at the Women's Lunch Place fosters those vital connections and improves a woman's self-image and self-esteem.
The Women's Lunch Place continues to offer outings for its guests. We usually have at least two per month. These small group activities give women an opportunity to escape, if briefly, loneliness and poverty. Outings offer chances to participate in the social and cultural environment of the greater Boston area. Over the past year, the women have gone to various museums, movies, concerts, the Peace Abbey, the Barnum and Bailey Circus, ice-skating, and apple-picking.
The Women's Lunch Place provides the guests with a number of special events. Each special event in the shelter promotes community; provides for a learning experience for guests, staff, and volunteers; energizes the guests and staff; and often provides the guests with feelings of being special and loved despite the difficult and often discouraging issues they face each and every day.
On the fourth Friday of each month, we have a birthday party complete with a cake, candles, decorations, and gifts for all the guests who had a birthday during the month. The delicious and beautifully decorated cake each month is donated by Sweet Tooth Bakery of South Boston and the gifts often include such things as: lotion sets, slippers, books, or gift cards. For many of our guests, birthday celebrations are a luxury and often the only acknowledgement they receive. As a result, this day is all the more special for our guests.
We have festive holiday celebrations through the months of December and January with the community celebrating Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Three Kings Day. In May, we hold our annual Mother's Day party for the guests. During the summer, we have a picnic on the Charles River. Most recently, we began celebrating the different cultures represented at the Women's Lunch Place by preparing food, playing music, and displaying information throughout the shelter related to the culture. As different occasions arise, we develop special themed days to celebrate them.