Non-profit ‘Health Care Without Walls’ to host virtual Broadway fundraiser


Courtesy/Health Care Without Walls

Broadway Smashes COVID virtual event poster

By Lucia Thorne

In an effort to raise funds for their organization, the Wellesley-based non-profit Health Care Without Walls (HCWW) is hosting the “Broadway Smashes COVID” virtual benefit on Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. EST. The virtual benefit event aims to help the organization continue to provide free healthcare for women and children facing housing-insecurity and homelessness in the Metro Boston area during the pandemic. 

The event, to be hosted by singer and comedian Chris Mann, will feature performances from several stars of the stage and screen, including opera singer Renee Fleming, Tony and Grammy Award winner Heather Headley, season 10 winner of “The Voice” Alisan Porter, “American Horror Story” star Cheyenne Jackson, Tony Award winner John Lloyd Young, “Rent” star Adam Pascal and star of “NCIS: Los Angeles” Barret Foa.

Founded by Dr. Roseanna Means, M.D. in 1999, Health Care Without Walls usually provides their free healthcare services and case management to the homeless. Since homelessness makes it incredibly challenging to access primary health care, HCWW brings health care to them through homeless shelters located around Boston.

“Because [being homeless] is so challenging and chaotic, sometimes somebody with a chronic condition just cannot get to their primary care,” Means said in a phone interview. “Their first priority is gonna be to get a meal for the day. It’s not going to be going to the doctor’s office. When they go to the shelter to get food, we make ourselves available to check a number of things, and we can connect them with primary care.”

Means said their operations are reduced due to pandemic-related closures of their shelter clinics. The need for their own permanent clinic became more apparent to Means. 

“We needed enough room for social distancing because the women are desperate to continue to get our services,” Means said. “We felt that we needed a fundraiser to help off the cost of opening our own space, getting medical equipment, more PPE and having the staff available to help the growing numbers.” 

Means said at the start of the nationwide quarantines, women’s shelter in Boston’s South End, a shelter they have been working with for over 20 years, offered clinic space to the organization in their shelter. 

“Operating out of the shelter clinic has been very, very convenient for the women because they can again get a meal or meet an advocate at the same time,” Means said. “Since March, we have been there every day doing medical screenings of the women who need to come inside to get warm, to take a shower and be unhassled for the day.”

In addition to being able to provide some care in-person, Means said they have been using telehealth communication—providing medical care electronically—to treat the clients they are able to reach. The organization plans to open a clinic just a few blocks from Emerson on West Street.

As the importance of frontline workers and access to medical care has become increasingly clear during the pandemic, Means said that securing Broadway stars to headline the fundraiser was far from challenging. Through her musician son’s connection to Chris Mann, the host of the event, Mann was able to recruit plenty of enthusiastic entertainers. 

“He offered to connect us to talent that did Broadway music because Chris had some connections in that space,” Means said. “We put together a package with some of our videos and some of our material. We gave it to Chris, and people signed up immediately.”

As the pandemic halted all sorts of productions in the entertainment industry, Means said the performers are thrilled to be performing again and for a good cause. 

“These are people whose livelihood depends on being able to perform and to be in front of audiences,” Means said. “They are more than happy to support the work that we’ve been doing because we’ve been on the front lines of the pandemic.” 

The night will include performances from the star studded line-up and a pre-show, which starts 15 minutes before the show. Means also hinted at a surprise at the end of the show. “All I will say is, be prepared to dance,” Means said.

Traditionally, the organization fundraised by hosting galas every five years. Means said she is excited to host this new event and hopes it will become an annual benefit with viewers from around the country and world. Tickets are $50 per person; however, students can purchase tickets for the virtual event at a discounted price online at ticket registration. Those who are unable to attend but would like to donate, can donate at ticket registration or HCWW’s website.