An alternative to shelters
Until now, the hospital systems had worked with local shelters to get beds for those whose injuries could have worsened if they went immediately back to the streets, Porteus said, and WellSpace rented space from the shelters to station its staff members there to provide care.
Computer technician Joe Clymer of Sacramento said he went through a rough patch two years ago and needed shelter and health services after a hospital stay. The services they had at the shelter were very limited when compared to what unhoused residents will receive at the new Gregory Bunker Care Transitions Center for Excellence, Clymer recalled.
“I’m amazed,” Clymer said after a tour of the Bunker. “There is so much more open space. There are day rooms, there was the computer lab, which is near and dear to my heart. I’m a technician. I’ve done volunteer work at places for people coming out of prison who need help filling out job applications. ... They did a great job where they were, but now they can improve on that.”
How homelessness affects health
Under the previous arrangement, 50-60 beds were available, Porteus said, but this new facility allows room to grow that number and to expand to accommodate other types of patients. WellSpace and the hospital systems are now looking at providing recuperative care to patients who were seen in emergency rooms but were not sick enough for hospital admission.
“We’re designing a 25-bed program as a pilot,” he said. “Essentially, if someone shows up to the emergency department and they don’t actually need to be in the hospital, but the providers and the emergency department may have concern (about releasing them to the streets), they can say, ‘I’d like you to go for three to five days to this safe, clean place and start on this medication’ or ‘I think you’re really worn out and you need three days of recuperation in a safe, clean environment. They will prescribe that, and then we will receive someone for that time.”
Generally, homeless residents have higher rates of illness and, on average, they die 12 years younger than other U.S. citizens, and in many cases, the cause of homelessness is injuries and illnesses that people have sustained, according to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council.
WellSpace has a team of case managers who work closely with patients to ensure they get benefits they qualify for and to find them housing for when they leave. Patients can stay up to 90 days if medically necessary, but many simply need time to get through a course of antibiotics or let a wound heal.
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