Circle the City Medical Respite Center is a place where the homeless in Phoenix can go to recover following treatment at a hospital instead of having to recover on the streets. The visionary behind the center, Sister Adele O’Sullivan, and Marisue Garganta, the director of Health Integration for St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, will discuss Circle the City.
Ted Simons: In tonight's look at Arizona giving and leading we focus on a new facility in Phoenix that serves as health care for the homeless. Photographer Scot olson and producer David Majure take us to "circumstance the city."
David Majure: These guys are lucky, that's a word we don't often use to describe people who are homeless, but in this case, it fits.
David Majure: Allen schmidt is lucky, he's a 62-year-old diabetic, whose life lab a roll of the dice for way too long.
Allen Schmidt: Too long. Months. Living in a park. Sleeping on the ground. And, you know, not being able to get a place. Or my medications. And so, so my, my -- I'm a diabetically, insulin dependent, so my blood sugar just kept climbing.
David Majure: He collapsed and nearly lapsed into a diabetic coma. Emergency responders saved his life by getting him to a hospital. This had become a routine for Allen during the last two years. He would be treated, released, and sent back to the streets.
Allen Schmidt: And I was still sick. And he would give me a bunch of prescriptions, but I have no income. And I have no insurance. So, they are Ruthless.
Sister Adele O'Sullivan: Oh, what would that man have done? He would have died. He would have died. If he had gone back to the street.
David Majure: Instead, Allen was place in the care of sister adele o'sullivan, a medical docotr who dedicated her life to healing the homeless. Dr. O'Sullivan The doctor says the valley service providers do a good job of providing shelter, health care and social services to those in need.
Sister Adele O'Sullivan: The gap in the city is between the hospital, and the street. If you are not quite sick enough to be in the hospital, so you don't meet the admission criteria or you have already met discharge criteria, you know, they say to us, great, you are better, you get to go home. But, you are too sick, you are too sick for the shelters. You are too sick for the streets. And, and that's the gap. Where do those people go?
David Majure: There is finally an answer to that question. It's circle to city, a nonprofit o'sullivan founded to operate the first medical respite center for people who are homeless.
Sister Adele O'Sullivan: You could see the last remnants of the construction here.
David Majure: She took us on a tour of the facility days before the grand opening at the end of September, 2012.
Sister Adele O'Sullivan: So, this is our day room. When this space is put together, it will be a beautiful kind of a living area. Love to see the art that they are putting on the wall.
David Majure: Hospice of the valley bought the building and lease itself to circle the city. That's just one example of community support that made this place a reality.
Sister Adele O'Sullivan: The dining room and the kitchen and the day room, we just came from, were all furnish for us by thunderbird charities.
Sister Adele O'Sullivan: Our food is going to come prepared in the beginning. From st. joseph's hospital down the street, and, but we'll need volunteers to serve it. This is years, years of planning, and years of, of, of creating relationships. This is all about relationships.
Sister Adele O'Sullivan: And this is a special place for us. This is our chapel. And it's an interfaith chapel. What we wanted to, to express is, is that, that spirituality is a major element of our lives, of our persons. And of the healing that, that we want to facilitate for our clients. So, we now moved, if we were recovering in our own homes, we moved from our living room, dining room and kitchen, to our bedroom area. So this is a men's dorm. It will be ten men, sleeping in the semi-private alcoves. The beds were donated by the Conrad Hilton fund.
David Majure: The respite center can care for 50 clients. There are 40 beds for men and ten in a private room for women.
Sister Adele O'Sullivan: We are trying to, to create the environment that we would have if we were able to go to our own homes, and recover. That this is what we want to provide. For people with no homes. This just isn't a thought, any more, this is real. And pictures are going up on walls, and, you know, beds are being installed, and it's just a, a tremendous day of happiness. For, for all of us.
Sister Adele O'Sullivan: This would be like you are just walking now into your doctor's office, you know. I see something that's going to be different in the future than the past, but just because I've been doing this for 15 years, I see the past, too. I see faces of people that I have taken care of over these years. And I think oh, I wish, I wish that, that I could have put them in these beds. Taken care of them here. [Applause]
Sister Adele O'Sullivan: This building is now open for our community.
David Majure: Circle the city is healing broken bodies and mending troubled minds. Giving people like Allen the medical attention they need in a clean and comforting environment. It's also helping people put their lives back together. By getting them the public benefits they are entitled to, and whenever possible, finding them a home to go to when they leave the facility.
Allen Schmidt: They will find me something, you know, or they will hang on to me, you know, and that's the fear. You know. Is they cannot find a place, and I'll be back on the street.
Allen Schmidt: And I really don't want to be there. You know. Frankly, I would rather be dead than being on the streets again, you know.
Sister Adele O'Sullivan: I know that, that what's going to happen in these walls is, is that, that suffering will be prevented. People's lives will be made different. People will be given the opportunity for success and for moving on into something better. And I just am so grateful to be moving into this new phase, and, of really health care for the homeless in our city.
He got it already.
David Majure: It's a chance at a healthy, new beginning for the lucky ones, like Allen.
Ted Simons: And joining me now to talk about circle the city is Sister Adele O'sullivan, the visionary behind the sister, and Marisue Garganta, the director of health instant immigration for St. Joseph's hospital and medical center. Sister, how did you come up with this idea?
Sister Adele O'Sullivan: These centers operate successfully in most cities around the country, so it's not an innovative idea. It's that Arizona had no medical respite center until circle the city opened.
Ted Simons: What prompted you to make sure that Arizona did have such a facility? What got you going?
Ted Simons: I think that the years of working with people who deserve the dignity of a safe and clean environment in which to recover.
Ted Simons: Is the result, which we just saw, which you experience every day, is that what you envisioned?
Sister Adele O'Sullivan: Oh, yes, and even more.
Ted Simons: Even more.
Sister Adele O'Sullivan: And even more.
Ted Simons: St. joseph's involvement, talk about this and the entire collaboration. And again, was this what you envisioned?
Marisue Garganta: More. It was bigger. Sister adele and I have been working with the homeless for some time, and one of the key things that we forget and we neglect to recognize is that when people leave the hospital, where do they go when you get a stomach ache? You get a bad flu, you go home, you go to your bed. You rest. You sleep, you get well. Homeless people don't have that opportunity. And so, this vision of ours of how did we transition people from hospital to home, has been something that we've been working for some time. So currently, what St. Joseph's was doing was, actually, paying for people to go into, into health, into, into a skilled nursing facility, or get some kind of home health some place, that they could rest and get well. But it was not optimal. It was not optimal, so this is what we envisioned and more. This is so much more.
Ted Simons: What is the criteria for admission? Define homeless. Is it someone who has absolutely no place to stay? Maybe a place to stay, they don't want? How do you get in?
Sister Adele O'Sullivan: Homelessness really, there is the homelessness that we think of, people who live on the streets, in the parks, and in the emergency shelters. And there is also people who, who double up with a friend, or a family member, and once the illness happens, that friend or family member says, I cannot take care of you. There are also people who might have a home but they cannot go back. And an example of that would be people that have had major, major surgery. And live in a third floor place with no elevator. So, it's, it's, what we are, we are trying to do, is find the people that have nowhere to go. And to be sure that this service is available.
Ted Simons: 50 beds, 40 for men and 10 for women, according to what we just heard, how do you decide who to take and who makes that decision?
Marisue Garganta: From the health care perspective, we try to make sure the placement is a correct placement because we don't want to send the wrong person to Sister Adele to be taken care of so we look at the care that, that transition and the Sister Adele comes into the hospital and makes sure that the criteria fits, and so we come together as a team, a multi-disciplinary team at the hospital to decide, is this a circle of the city? Is this skilled nursing? Where do they go? Where is the best place for them to get well? And that's what we decide. Where is the best place for them to get well. And with partners like Sister Adele, we make those decisions together. For the best for the patient.
Ted Simons: Are those difficult decisions?
Sister Adele O'Sullivan: They are difficult. We would like to take care of everyone.
Ted Simons: Sure.
Sister Adele O'Sullivan: I think from our perspective, we have some criteria for, for patient safety, you know, we're not a locked unit. We're not -- we can't take certain very acute cases that would require licensed staff 24-7. But there are so many people that what they need is, is they need that safe place. They need the doctor. They need the nursing care. And three meals a day and a clean bed.
Ted Simons: Yeah. How is circle the city funded?
Marisue Garganta: It's funded through grateful donors, you can actually donate to circle the city. And I do. And I hope you will. So, grateful donors but also, the hospitals, the hospitals, actually, we, at St. Joseph's, have purchased two beds so 365 days for two people. And we can have many people go 365 days, you know, twice, two times. And we have a per diem rate that we also pay, so the hospital literally pays circle the city to take care of those special patients for us.
Ted Simons: And it's still, obviously, less expensive than emergency care and what was done before.
Marisue Garganta: Well, more importantly, our hope is that, is that we're able to take care of these patients in the right place and the right space, and I think that that's something what we forget, when you go to the hospital, you are acutely ill. And some of these things are taken care of at hospice, or Circle The City and actually, it's the right place for them because you are, you or I would go home, and maybe go to an infusion suite to get infused antibiotics because we have a place to go home at night. These people don't have that. So, it's the right place, the right kind of care, the right space, and that's the criticalness of this discussion. The other piece that I think is neglected that we have not discussed, this space and place, we are trying to surround these people with what happens after they leave the circle the city. And so, we have just entered into a new partnership, called fuse with corporation for supportive housing, and with, with supportive grants from the St. Lukes health initiative, and cass and a variety host of others to move these people into the supportive housing, so when they leave circle the city, they go to their own home.
Ted Simons: Well.
Marisue Garganta: That's the beauty of this.
Ted Simons: It's -- there is a lot of beauty to this and, and continued success, and congratulations on a great effort here, and thank you very much from the community. It's great work, and good to have you here, thanks for joining us.
Marisue Garganta: Thank you for having us.
Sister Adele O'Sullivan:Visionary of Center; Marisue Garganta:Director of Health Integration, St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center;