A 62-year-old Army veteran, found himself living in his car after leaving a challenging marriage. Having spent much of his life as a truck driver for a manufacturing plant and living independently, he wasn’t good at asking for help. But when his health started to decline and he could no longer work he found himself reaching out for shelter.

In partnership with Mary Washington Hospital, the churches have created a safe place through Micah for people to recover or die with dignity. The gentle man, with a long white beard found himself there when his esophageal cancer left him with a feeding tube and a steep slope of radiation and chemotherapy.

While staying in the respite house, the man—nicknamed “Santa”—became friends with one of the churches that came on a regular basis to serve dinner. They continued to visit him after he moved back into housing and by the time he died he was coming back to respite as a part of their monthly dinner team.

As the man’s condition kept him from eating for many of the months he stayed in respite, he talked often of the home-cooked meal—steak and baked potato—he hoped to have again someday. Some months after he left the program and moved into his own apartment the friends he made his respite made that meal possible. Eating the meal he had waited so long for was one thing, he said, but sharing it with a community gave new meaning to “home-cooked.”

This story was possible last year because our churches have mobilized time, resources and care through a Respite Home.  In nine years of operation, this ministry has become a vital source of support for people to rest, navigate health resources and build relationships that make heal the deepest wounds.  Every year, the respite house cares for 50 to 75 different individuals who would have otherwise left the hospital without a safe place to recover. In addition to improving patient care for homeless individuals in our community, the ministry reduces unnecessary health care costs by lowering readmissions and decreasing the length of time someone must stay in the hospital.