Healing House a Dream Come True for Organizers, Community

Healing House, a medical respite care facility of Madison-Area Urban Ministry (MUM), in Madison, Wis., is a story of persistence, patience, and partnerships. Thanks to our generous donors, We Raise Foundation is part of the story in supporting the first recuperative shelter for families in the United States.

It’s a story of patience. MUM launched a Respite Care Task Force in 2012 to research gaps in their homeless services array. One of these gaps was how families experiencing homelessness manage when an adult caregiver or a child is too ill or frail to recover from illness or injury on the streets. The idea of Healing House came soon after, but it wasn’t until July 2019 that they opened their doors. “It was the realization of a dream come true,” says Linda Ketcham, MUM Executive Director.

Healing House is an 8-10 bed facility where families with a parent or child in need of recuperative care after discharge from the hospital or emergency room can stay. Families with a member requiring surgery but with no place or ability to adequately rest and prepare for their procedure due to homelessness are also eligible. Healing House also welcomes pregnant women who are homeless and experiencing a high-risk pregnancy and mothers with newborns as they wait for transitional housing to open up. Referrals come from hospital social workers and discharge planners.

MUM and other Healing House supporters were persistent. According to Ketcham, it took time for hospitals to acknowledge patients experiencing homelessness and refer them to MUM. Community education and outreach were key in building support, overcoming systems resistant to change, making the project a reality.

Kysaundra, single mother of two girls and a boy (ages 7, 4, and 2 respectively), lost her home in February 2019 when the pipes burst in the apartment upstairs, flooding her apartment and rendering it uninhabitable. For eight long months, the family was in and out of hotels and shelters—sometimes sleeping in her car—and Kysaundra was forced to resign from her full-time job. “I was going crazy,” she says, adding that dealing with her middle child’s health complications from allergies, asthma, sleep apnea, and seizures complicated their situation even more.

Doctors advised surgery to help her little girl, but given her experience with shelters, Kysaundra knew that recovery on the street would be difficult, if not impossible. Her luck changed when a shelter social worker connected her with MUM.

“Within two weeks of coming here I was able to get a part-time job and get my family back on a schedule,” she said. “Healing House staff have been so helpful. I’ve been able to get back to where I was before I lost everything.”

Healing House’s story is about partnerships, because “it takes a village” to address this issue. We Raise Foundation was an early partner, providing a three-year $50,000 GrantsPlus grant for the project in 2016. MUM also collaborated with numerous congregations, particularly First Congregational United Church of Christ in Madison, which offered one of their buildings for Healing House when their daycare housed in the building closed. They also committed $150,000 toward renovation, which was completed by youth and staff from Operation Fresh Start, a nonprofit in Dane County that works with at-risk youth to provide them training in skilled trades such as carpentry.

“So many of the Operation Fresh Start kids have experienced homelessness—working on Healing House was another level of purpose and meaning for them,” Ketcham notes.

Other partnerships include The Road Home, which is providing housing case management, and Edgewood College, whose recent cohort of nursing students are providing nutrition and healthy cooking workshops.

Ketcham says We Raise has been an incredible partner. “We Raise’s grant really was the first large financial commitment we had for the program and it got the attention of other funders,” she says. “It really helped kick start our capital campaign.” She also values the feedback from We Raise staff, noting, “They were always asking pertinent questions to keep us thinking two, three, four steps ahead.”

As for Kysaundra, her daughter had her surgery in late October and is recovering well. “I don’t know where we’d be without Healing House,” Kysaundra says. “It’s a wonderful program.”

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