The Cardinal Community House (517 SW Second St.) is providing sorely needed help for the homeless.
Through a partnership between St. Anthony Hospital and Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City, the center is providing respite and resources that many may take for granted after hospitalization or an emergency room visit.
These resources could include safe shelter, three meals a day, prescription management, hygiene supplies and counseling resources–which are often key factors in an individual’s recovery after a hospital stay.
Kelli Ude, the center’s executive director and an attorney,
Pointed out that the facility was once the Oklahoma City Halfway House for inmates nearing the end of their prison sentences.
Miss Ude said the center ended its contract to operate the halfway house and temporarily became a shelter for the homeless during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2021, the center changed to become a respite care center for the unsheltered.
The center’s executive director said the non-profit center’s transformation came about through conversations with Patrick Raglow, executive director of Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City.
Mr. Raglow brought the center’s leadership together with SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital.
Through the two organizations’ current partnership, St. Anthony sends discharged patients experiencing homelessness to Cardinal Community House for post-hospitalization or post-emergency room care. Ude said most individuals stay an average of about 30 days to recuperate and the center is currently prepared to offer care for about 40 people. She said an on-site Catholic Charities case manager works with each person to find them a permanent housing solution.
At first, some were wary of the center because they had not experienced anything like it. Ude said each person is given their own room and a place to store their belongings.
Three meals a day are served in a cafeteria-style setting, but the center includes two kitchenette areas, where patrons may keep snacks and prepare foods between meals. Transportation to appointments also is provided by staff via several of the respite care center’s vehicles.
The idea is to nurture a sense of community among those recuperating together, Miss Ude said.
“Many of them have a community–the tents and the communities that they’ve built outside–and they have a lot of mistrust,” she said. “I think they’ve been able to find some of that inside of the center, as well, and we want them to feel at home, we want them to be comfortable in this environment.”
She said the center has become a haven for clients like a woman with the son with developmental disabilities. Miss Ude said the woman agreed to medical treatment at the hospital once she knew her son would be able to stay with her at the respite center while she recuperated.
Mr. Raglow said he had seen a similar respite care model in Spokane, Washington, and thought it would be great to have something like it in Oklahoma City. He said Oklahoma is big on collaborative efforts.
“We can help make good things happen through collaboration, and everybody wins,” he said.
He noted that the Cardinal Community House program may not be as extensive as a similar program in Spokane, but it is meeting needs that had previously been unmet.
“If you go to the hospital, and then they send you home and say take your medicine for 10 days and get plenty of sleep, and rest and clean the wound, if you’ve got a place to live and family support, neighbors and friends that will support you, that’s what you do, and you recover, and it’s a wonderful thing,” Raglow said. “But if you’re homeless, or you live in a tent, or in a car, and it’s 110 degrees out and you’ve got to have your refrigerated medicine, or whatever it is, you just don’t have the opportunity to actually recover from the injury or from the condition.”
Andrew Ochs, regional director-mission integration with SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital, said he spoke to Mr. Raglow about the respite care model in Spokane and he also knew of a similar program, this one in Tennessee, which offered a “post-discharge solution for homeless patients who are seen in city hospitals.”
He said St. Anthony was panxious to become the first hospital in Oklahoma City to sign an agreement to begin discharging some of the community’s “most vulnerable” to Cardinal Community House.
“That’s the concept behind the respite shelter to provide a safe, medically appropriate space for our homeless brothers and sisters to just heal up for a few days,” he said.
“For a period of time after the hospitalization, their room and board is covered.”
Ude said individuals are currently referred to Cardinal Community House by SSM Health St. Anthony, but the respite care center is open to referrals from other medical organizations.