The Art of Healing: New Wellness and Art Therapy Programs Allow Residents to Express Themselves

Lamont Cox has always been seen as a tough guy. As a former gang member with a seemingly hard exterior, he never backed down from a fight and was never one to discuss his feelings. After suffering from multiple strokes and a heart attack, Lamont’s house was foreclosed and he was left with no place to go. He found himself vulnerable, distressed and looking for help. That’s when he came to Joseph’s Home.

Lamont has been attending the new wellness and art therapy programs offered by Joseph’s Home in partnership with Ursuline College. This past fall, Executive Director Christine Horne attended an event hosted by Catholic Community Connection. Connecting catholic education and social services is one of Catholic Community Connection’s core objectives, so they helped connect Christine with Ursuline College at the event. Ursuline College President Sister Christine DeVinne, OSU then recommended that Instructor and Clinical Director Melissa Hladek reach out to Joseph’s Home in hopes of bringing wellness and art therapy programming to the acutely ill homeless men of Joseph’s Home.

Accompanied by students of the Ursuline College Counseling and Art Therapy program, Melissa leads the residents in creative activities that are meant to encourage thoughtfulness and meditation, reflection on past experiences, healthy coping, and the creation of goals and aspirations as they relate to mental health. This focus on listening and sharing has given some residents the freedom to open up and discuss the challenges and barriers they have faced.

These days, Lamont can be seen participating in yoga, meditation and art projects that provide relaxation and reduce anxiety. “You all have showed me something I have never seen before. When I was growing up, all I saw was drugs and guns. I never had time for this. But now, I’ve got time,” said Lamont.

Lamont has been at Joseph’s Home for just over a month and has enjoyed attending the wellness and art therapy programs because they have allowed him to be creative and regain a sense of dignity. “I feel like I’ve been healed by art because it makes me feel good,” he added.

Melissa said she hopes that Joseph’s Home residents can tap into a side of themselves that is very rarely explored. Whether it be sharing about a traumatic event from the past, meditating to relieve the stress of homelessness and illness, or expressing their emotions through an art project, men like Lamont are experiencing healing that goes beyond medicine. The wellness and art therapy programs are providing homeless men who have lived chaotic and, in some cases, traumatic lives a coping mechanism and a sense of worth they’ve never felt before.

“It’s beautiful because it brings out the good in a person,” said Lamont.

The article above appears in the spring 2018 issue of the Joseph’s Journey newsletter.