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Suitcase Clinic Gets Boost From JMU's X-Labs

Several JMU students have been working to help the non-profit Suitcase Clinic solve the issue of providing better healthcare to those who are homeless in Harrisonburg.  WMRA’s Bridget Manley reports.

The students in the Community Innovations class, all studying different majors and with the help of a group of professors through JMU X Labs, designed a shipping container that staff from the Suitcase Clinic can use to visit its homeless clients.

Rhonda M. Zingraff is Director of the Institute for Innovation for Health and Human Services, the home of the Suitcase Clinic.  She said she was impressed with how the students were able to tackle something as complex as healthcare for the homeless.

RHONDA ZINGRAFF:  To see the students reaching that same level of strategic planning that would go on in leadership meetings here at the university over what we would need to do to make a decision lets me know that our students are doing a great job.

Since 2011, the clinic has been serving people who use the shelters in Harrisonburg. But with a shipping container, the clinic would be able to serve clients in the streets in addition to treating those who visit shelters.

Lindsey McLucas, a writing, rhetoric, and technical communications major, says that the course has taught her that homelessness is a multifaceted problem, and that it can happen to anyone.

LINDSEY MCLUCAS:  I think my biggest lesson was that I got to learn how many things go into homelessness, and that it’s not just one thing that goes wrong, but it’s the culmination of so many different things that can also happen to anyone.

The directors of the Suitcase Clinic will take the students' work back to their board to see if they can implement the recommendations, which include the purchase of an inexpensive shipping container to remodel, and partnering with local trucking companies to move the container whenever necessary.

Bridget Manley graduated with a degree in Mass Communications from Frostburg State University, and has spent most of her adult life working as a morning show producer and reporter for WCBC Radio in Cumberland, MD and WNAV in Annapolis, MD. She moved to Harrisonburg seven years ago and is also a reporter for The Harrisonburg Citizen. When she’s not reporting the news Bridget is the Manager of Operations for Rivercrest Farm and Event Center in Shenandoah, VA, and she also hosts a podcast that shares parenting stories called Birds In A Tree.