Medical Respite Program gives homeless a safe place to recover

Published: May. 15, 2017 at 6:19 PM AKDT
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Beyond a locked door at the Brother Francis Shelter a small group of adults experiencing homelessness are on the mend.

“I’ve got another month before I’ll be able to walk again,” said Wolf Shadowwind from one of the shelter’s five rooms in a medical respite area. His left ankle is in a brace after being shattered from a fight, “If I was out there my foot would be all infested and all this crap because sometimes guys don’t shower and all that and back here it’s cleaner, it’s more healthy for people to rehabilitate themselves than anything else.”

The 10 bed respite area includes a common living space with rocking chairs, a kitchen and a place to do laundry. Following a 14-month pilot program the medical respite space is now a permanent fixture of the shelter.

“We found more than 80% of those who use this program, these beds, were able to move from here straight to permanent housing and they didn’t return to a shelter or a homeless situation,” said Lisa Aquino, Executive Director of Catholic Social Services.

She says many people become homeless or stay homeless because of medical issues, “We can for a small group of people give them some time to recuperate so that they can successfully get out of homelessness on their own and support them in doing that,” said Aquino.

The program is paid for by Providence Health & Services Alaska, Alaska Regional Hospital, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and Southcentral Foundation.

The project is also part of a research study that looks at reducing remittance into hospitals and their Emergency Health Services while getting patient guests into permanent housing.