What exactly is respite care and why is a critical need for our homeless brothers and sisters? According to the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, “Medical respite care is acute and post-acute medical care for individuals experiencing homelessness who are too ill or frail to recover from a physical illness or injury on the streets, but do not require hospital-level care.”
Renting a small home in Longmont affords Agape Safe Haven the ability to offer respite care to the homeless. Over the years, with help from staff at the Hopelight Medical Clinic , we have offered basic respite care to individuals recovering from amputations, cancer surgery, kidney disease, and acute mental health disorders. Even the basic respite care Safe Haven offers saves and enriches lives.
Endhomelessness.org succinctly states what staff and volunteers at Safe Haven have known for years: “Without medical respite, people experiencing homelessness have longer hospitalizations, are more likely to spend their first night post-hospitalization living unsheltered and have suboptimal outcomes due to a lack of appropriate discharge options.”
Many people do not realize that in a traditional homeless shelter, residents are asked to leave by 7am or 8am and cannot return until the early evening. Many medical professionals refuse to do surgery or offer other treatments like physical therapy or dialysis to individuals residing at one of these traditional shelters. Oftentimes, these individuals have nowhere to go during the day and wander the streets until it is time to line up at the homeless shelter again in the evening.
One of our current transitional housing guests has required knee surgery for the last 3 years, but because he was homeless he was unable to get the surgery. As soon as he was accepted into Safe Haven we scheduled his knee surgery. He was able to have the surgery and then return to Safe Haven the same day to sleep and spend a month convalescing at our rental home- in his own bedroom. This gentleman now has a full-time job and a housing voucher and will be leaving Safe Haven next week.
A long-time Safe Haven board member once said that while big numbers such as total meals served in a year, or total yearly shelter beds filled, or total volunteer hours are all well and good, it is the “intangible statistics” that can matter more. Are the respite care numbers for Safe Haven staggering? No. Does every transitional housing guest need respite care? No. But our respite care numbers include care and compassion shown to every gentleman that has needed it. It’s intangibles like getting to know them and seeing how our care and concern for them can transform their lives. Seeing someone come into the program sick and ready to give up is heart-breaking. But it’s an incredibly humbling feeling to then see them heal and recover and walk out of our program a completely new person.