Employee’s Blankets Protect the Homeless Population He Serves

Philip Campbell’s mission is to provide comfort. He helps Eskenazi Health patients suffering from substance use disorder get back on their feet and homeless residents warm and shield themselves with the quilts he painstakingly creates.

In the first half of his career, Campbell uplifted fellow artists. As an arts entrepreneur, he led the conversion of the Murphy Building in Fountain Square into Murphy Arts Center, overseeing the renovation with his partner. He created the still-thriving arts contest “Masterpiece in a Day.” His own art is consistently featured in galleries and exhibitions. The constant evolution of his work can be seen on his website, http://www.5109.me/. As he puts it, “I was a contemporary painter who became this wood carver who’s now become a quilter . . . .”

He created a novel quilt design to protect the homeless, including those who struggle with substance use disorder, as he once did. One side of these quilts is constructed of unusual materials, including two layers of “stab-proof” Kevlar and commercial furniture fabrics to shield those on the streets from bugs and human threats. This side of the blanket is waterproof, tear resistant and so thick that Campbell sews it with pliers. The fabric on the other side, however, is soft and warm, made up of layers of cotton batting and 1600-thread-count sheets.

Just before Thanksgiving, he hung six prototypes of these colorful protective quilts at Horizon House, a day services center serving individuals experiencing homelessness. After decorating Horizon House for a few weeks, the quilts were distributed to unhoused neighbors and patients through Jeff Rode, Horizon House’s chief operating officer, and James “Danny” Pollom, PMHNP-BC, psychiatric nurse practitioner at Eskenazi Health Center Pedigo, right next door[LW1] .

These aren’t the only types of quilts Campbell creates. When moved by friends’ generosity or achievements, he develops art from their clothing, believing it retains the “magic of the experience, strength and hope of the people who wore them.” Two of these quilts, along with a third inspired by a famous writer, are displayed at Eskenazi Health Thomas & Arlene Grande Campus. A friend who contributed her clothing for a quilt is a former health care worker and violinist who assisted with Campbell’s recovery. “When I first got sober,” he explains, “we kinda worked together, trading drawings back and forth each day to keep each other accountable for making art.”

Campbell transitioned from a full-time art career to one in health care in 2018. He supervises Project POINT (Planned Outreach, Intervention, Naloxone and Treatment), part of the Eskenazi Health Emergency Department Clinical Public Health Program. He and his team — four certified peer recovery coaches and a social worker — assist patients presenting with substance use disorders at Michael & Susan Smith Emergency Department at Eskenazi Health.

“What Project POINT does is in a nutshell is . . . break down those barriers that keep patients from getting into recovery,” he explains. “So if you’re living on the street, and you have no food, and you have no job, and you have no prospects and you have no support, you certainly are not going to stop doing drugs, even if you go to detox.”

The program, which served 335 patients in 2019, when Campbell moved from coaching to supervision, served nearly 10 times that number in 2023, he says. The wraparound services Project POINT provides are extensive, from helping with insurance setup and medication, to assisting with treatment program costs, food, clothing and bus passes. “Really in two hours, we can completely change your life if you’re ready,” he says.

For Campbell, this work is personal. When he hit rock bottom in 2008, his “first glimpse of recovery” from substance use disorder was at Wishard Hospital (the predecessor to Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital), where he arrived with severe delirium tremens. “I was working at Eskenazi Health for two years before I realized that connection . . .” he says, “but now I’m working for this organization and giving back to the community that helped me get sober.”

Campbell wants his art as well as his Project POINT work to comfort others. That’s why he moved from painting to art that can be touched without doing damage. He particularly wants to aid those feeling raw and fearful in the early stages of sobriety. Maybe that’s why he characterizes the “security blankets” he makes for the homeless as a “suit of armor.”

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