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Home Sweet Home Ministries explores medical respite opportunities

Exterior of Home Sweet Home Ministries.
Emily Bollinger
The Home Sweet Home Ministries' shelter has remained at or near capacity as it prepares for additional emergency housing needs next winter.

People experiencing homelessness in the community don’t have a dedicated place to continue recovery when they’re discharged from the hospital, but Home Sweet Home Ministries (HSHM) is exploring what it will take to get them proper care.

The Bloomington-based homeless shelter received a $68,000 planning grant from the Illinois Public Health Institute as part of a statewide initiative to expand medical respite. It’s called the Illinois Medical Respite Capacity Building Initiative.

Medical Respite Care gives people experiencing homelessness a temporary place to stay and recuperate when they’re ill or injured, according to the National Health Care for Homeless Council.

“It’s really a way of providing transitional supports for our homeless community members who have had some interaction with the health care system, usually meaning inpatient hospitalization, or emergency room treatment,” HSHM CEO Matt Burgess explained.

Burgess said the grant will go toward training costs and research efforts. HSHM staff are intended to network with other grant recipients and entities that already have medical respite programs in place. He emphasized that the money cannot be used to introduce the program.

“For right now, all we're doing is learning,” he said. “What we expect to learn over the next five more months of this grant is how we might be able to repurpose some of our shelter space to develop a capacity to provide medical respite by partnering with an entity like Chestnut Health Systems.”

HSHM is already in conversation with Chestnut.

The planning grant will run through June, and after that point, Burgess said the idea is to start searching for funding opportunities. He added that it’s important for there to be medical respite in the area since “it is a regular occurrence” that people are sent back to the streets or shelters like Home Sweet Home from hospitals.

“We're not equipped to provide post-surgical care for an incision and dressing an incision, and all that sort of stuff,” he said. “We just don't have the knowledge on how to do those things, and so it complicates someone's recovery.”

Still, Burgess said the shelter does what it can. He pointed to a resident who was recently sent back to HSHM after joint surgery.

“We had to kind of scramble and rearrange things here as best we could,” he said.

We depend on your support to keep telling stories like this one. WGLT’s mental health coverage is made possible in part by Report For America and Chestnut Health Systems. Please take a moment to donate now and add your financial support to fully fund this growing coverage area so we can continue to serve the community.

Melissa Ellin is a reporter at WGLT and a Report for America corps member, focused on mental health coverage.
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