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Posts Tagged ‘homeless medical’

This month, the Journal of the American Medical Association(JAMA) reports that chronically homeless, ill individuals use emergency medical services less frequently when provided with housing and case management.  We have a board member who always says, “Housing IS healthcare!” And she’s right.

Having a safe place to recover means that a person experiencing homelessness does not have to battle weather conditions, lack of sleep, horrible nutrition, etc., in order to heal. When provided with housing and (the important piece) case management, motivated individuals do well.  And motivation can be acquired in the right environment.

The JAMA abstract notes, “After adjustment, offering housing and case management to a population of homeless adults with chronic medical illnesses resulted in fewer hospital days and emergency department visits, compared with usual care.”

Dozens of people have told me that they don’t want to support homeless services.  I’ve heard that the homeless don’t want help or are hopeless cases.  I’ve heard that helping them is a waste of time.  This study is another step is dispelling the myth that homeless people want to be homeless.  Sure, you can find a few, but no one has ever begged me to get them back on the streets.

Ideological concerns aside, helping the homeless helps your bottom line. As this study shows, keeping homeless people off the streets results in fewer hospitalizations, shorter hospital stays, and fewer emergency department visits.  The money saved in the process is back in the taxpayer’s pocket.  And that’s something we can all support.

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A few weeks ago, a new client arrived at the Center for Respite Care with a horrific case of frostbite.  Freezing rain splashed off the sidewalk as he gingerly walked to our front door with only bandages on his feet.  The frostbite was a result of working as a parking garage attendant.  Today, he is healing, but still faces toe amputation. 

Personally, I’m not a fan of cold weather.  Our current weather makes me want to hide underneath the covers–or, at least, it used to.  One recent morning, I woke up and immediately decided I had left a window open.   I dug out my trusty thermometer: fifty-eight degrees!

I called my landlord, but ten days later, the whole building was fifty degrees.  The landlord came over, but it was too late to call for repairs.  We went without heat that night.

There is a big difference between having some heat and having no heat.  I piled three comforters on the bed, cranked up a tiny space heater, and shivered.

My heat was fixed the next day, but not everyone is so lucky.  In fact, every night in Cincinnati, hundreds of homeless men, women, and children are without heat and shelter.  Unlike me, they have little hope of reprieve until summer.  What little time and money they have go toward finding the next meal, tracking down loved ones, and waiting for benefits such as food stamps and rental assistance.  The unlucky ones develop pneumonia, frostbite, infections, and cancer.

If you’re snowed in today, appreciate your heat!  And consider helping your fellow citizens find shelter, heat, and medical care.  The economy is tight for everyone, and no group feels this more acutely than the homeless.

To make a donation to the Center for Respite Care visit our website.

Check back soon for Respite in the news.  (Hint: did you see Respite in the Enquirer last Sunday?)

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We call those who are served by the Respite “clients” for several reasons – it connotates respect and self-worth, helps to maintain professionalism, and it’s accurate, if somewhat formal.

One of our clients passed away yesterday morning, and calling him a client already seems wrong.  Mr. W was a friend as well as a person who came to the Respite to recover.  Despite the severity of his illness he was always in good spirits, always polite.  In fact, he was cheerful to the point that his death took some of us by surprise. 

After becoming ill one afternoon, he took a cab to the emergency room, telling his friends on the way out to help themselves to his cigarettes; he knew he wasn’t coming back. 

Although we know that everyone served by the Respite is ill, we are never truly prepared to lose them.  Rest in peace, Mr. W.  We miss you.

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Are you registered to participate yet?

Are you registered to participate yet?

This year’s Blog Action Day has a theme close to the Respite mission: poverty.  Obviously, the population we serve here is 100% poor and under the poverty line, frequently to the point of have $0 income and no benefits.  (Yes, we make every effort to rectify that.)  This will be my first time writing for blog action day and I’m psyched that they chose a theme so near and dear to the population we serve.

I can’t wait to put together some thoughts and can’t wait to see what others (SLO Homeless, The Homeless Guy – please?) have to say.  One stipulation of the project is that each blogger write from his/her usual slant, so I’ll be edging in info on homelessness and medical care.

See you on Oct. 15th.  Until then – register, register, register!

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I was tag surfing today, checking out other blog articles on homelessness and found a great description of one woman’s first day at a homeless shelter.  It contains many of the details I’ve heard from Respite clients (about their stay at “traditional” emergency shelters, not a respite facility), along with the fear, worry, and unease inherent to the situation. 

As you can tell from the woman’s description, a typical shelter is no place for someone to try to recover after being hospitalized, having surgery, or being released from an emergency room.  There are showers and a place to sleep, but in the wee hours of the morning, each person must return to the streets.  For an injured person, this would surely contribute to repeat hospitalizations and ER visits.

Running a homeless shelter is definitely a balancing game.  If you provide more services, you serve fewer people.  If you try to serve everyone, you can’t provide as much help for each individual.  At the Center for Respite Care, we provide medical recovery and 24-hour shelter.  We have high success rates for our population, but we are limited to serving fourteen people at a time.  Luckily, there are other agencies in Cincinnati that create something of a safety net, but we do sometimes turn people away because we don’t have the resources to serve them.  On the upside, we’re the only agency in Cincinnati that providing this service and can hopefully expand our size in the future. 

If you’ve never heard of the Center for Respite Care (or other similar respite care provider for the homeless), I’d urge you to visit our website: www.homelessrespite.org.

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I fold and sort (thankfully) many clothing donations for the Center for Respite Care each month and I have some tips for potential clothing donors in Cincinnati or anywhere.  In fact, I received a wonderful clothing donation today from a local church group that refilled our dangerously-low t-shirt supply (that’s lesson one: homeless shelters usually need new t-shirts, socks, and underwear the most!) and provided some paper cups and plates as well.

After folding and sorting a well-prepared donation, I thought I’d share with you the best ways to make the most of your old clothing, just like today’s donors:

1)  Be hygenic: items like pants, sweaters, and even shoes can be donated with gentle wear and tear.  Who hasn’t loved a hand-me-down, after all?  Other items like socks or underwear are best discarded or recycled once you can no longer wear them.  Especially among homeless populations, health care is often difficult to access (unless you’re staying with the Respite!).  Used undies are more likely to carry harmful germs and bacteria than other duds.  Donate new items you find at a local discount retailer.

2) Stains are a pain: Although you may think that a stained shirt is better than NO shirt for a homeless person, please consider the self-respect of those who will wear your old clothes.  If a stain is the reason you are discarding an item, it’s time for the trash, not the donation pile.  By giving our homeless clients only the clothing we would wear ourselves, we’re valuing them as people and as equals.  Plus, think of the stereotypes for homeless people: dirty, lazy, and sloppy.  Donating unstained items helps break this stereotype and teaches homeless people that they have worth and deserve to be respected.

3) Washing adds value to your donation: Old clothes from your attic may be in great condition.  After marinating in mothballs, however, they’ll need a bit of sprucing up.  Consider washing your items before donating them.  Nothing says “we care!” like being able to hand a homeless person a freshly-laundered shirt.  Don’t have time?  Throw them into the dryer with a dryer sheet!  True, we could wash them ourselves, but this takes time, effort, and money.  Plus, it takes time away from providing our normal services.  Donating freshly laundered clothing helps us make the most of your donation, saves time, and keeps our storage spaces smelling fresh.

4. Pat yourself on the back!  All that sorting and laundering is hard work!  Give yourself credit for taking time out of a busy schedule to help people in need.  To add to the “feel good” factor, ask to take a tour when dropping off clothes to see your favorite agency in action.  Share what you learn with a friend!

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It seems that winter has struck early this year.  Not so much in terms of weather, but in the increased amount of homeless people needing shelter and medical care in these first few days of October.  I believe that most homeless shelters experience a similar, weather-related trend: in the summer, occupancy rates go down because it’s more comfortable to “sleep out.” 

In the winter, however, some people are forced to follow rules they might otherwise reject; stay sober or sleep in the snow?  I wish I could claim this was not the case, but it seems to be so.  On the upside, cold weather gives us a chance to reach and help more sick people.

Unusually enough, however, we have seen a recent, prolonged increase in referrals even though temperatures are hardly uncomfortable outside.  I wonder if this is a result of chance, or the economy (anyone else trying hard to ignore that?), or some other factor I haven’t considered.

What do you think?  Will the current economic conditions cause shelters nationwide to be flooded with fellow citizens in need?  Or is this trend a fluke?

Some industries applaud a waiting list of customers, but not us!  We’re happy to help and thrilled to be a part of breaking the cycle of homelessness for so many people each year, but it pains me to think there will be people in need whom we cannot help, perhaps in unpredented numbers.

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