Acupuncture for Homeless Shelters
Acupuncture is a powerful healing tool for all communities. That’s why, in 2010, I started providing acupuncture services for the homeless community through the Alternative Healthcare Access Campaign. After our introduction through that program, my colleague, Dina Gosse, L.Ac and I started offering bimonthly sessions at our local shelter. Those spots filled up quickly and remained busy over the 7 years, so for the last year, Dr. Lillian Lee and I shifted to offering weekly sessions at Angeline’s Day Center for Women in Belltown.
The Sum of Collective Healing
Acupuncture is an incredibly efficient medicine, which makes it an optimal treatment to provide in shelters. We are able to treat many people in the same space and at the same time for stress, pain, and a variety of other conditions.
At Angeline’s, we use a small room and stagger our appointments. When we have all three chairs active in healing, we see the effect of healing harmonics: The sum of their collective healing is greater than an individual healing.
Making Health Care More Accessible
I believe that everyone deserves health care, which is why we provide these services. Health is a dynamic thing and everyone is on their own journey. My hope for the women in the shelter is for them to feel connected to their own healing potential, to reduce pain, to relieve the intense stress they constantly live under, and to honor them as fellow humans.
We keep our treatments simple yet powerful. Our role is not to be their sole health care provider — we are support. For example, easing back pain is worth it to that patient, even if the conditions in her life may not allow her to fully heal from acupuncture alone.
Empowering Women Through Alternative Medicine
My favorite part of working with these populations is when a returning patient tells me a story about something in her life that happened since her last visit. Maybe she followed the guided meditation techniques I taught her to stay grounded and centered, or used yoga stretching to improve her body function. I love hearing the empowerment in women’s voices as they practice these powerful tools. It’s like they uncovered a superpower that can and will deeply support them through tough times.
Most of the time, our shifts are rather relaxed. Women simply come in and share their symptoms or health goals. Occasionally, big emotions come up during the treatments. We don’t need to know details of their personal stories (unless they need to share them). We simply sit with them and let it flow. At the end of the treatment or at the next visit, those patients often report a huge shift in some internal struggle or recurrent emotional memory. It is powerful stuff. I love holding space for people to move through things; it’s a gift.
I would like to see our society focus more love and attention on our endlessly growing homeless population. These women (and men) are not different from you and me, other than some unfortunate traumas and hard times. The stigma of mental illness and drug addictions affects all classes of people, not just homeless people. Trauma needs to be healed across the board. Everyone deserves health care and respect. I honestly wish we could do a whole lot more!