Thursday, 27 July 2017 22:58

Non-profit serves terminally and seriously ill homeless people

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By Jade Sarver and Charlotte Fife-Jepperson

The INN Between non-profit first opened its doors in August of 2015 to give hospice to homeless individuals in Salt Lake City.  

Situated on a quiet, tree-lined street in Poplar Grove, its campus is comprised of two buildings. One is a small, 4,000-square-foot, 13-room building that was once a home for nuns of the Catholic Church, and also a shelter for women escaping domestic violence. This building currently has 16 beds for terminally ill and seriously ill homeless people (and in a few cases, their spouses or caretakers) who are referred by homeless agencies or hospitals. The second building is the former Guadalupe elementary school, built in 1954, that houses their administrative offices and meeting rooms.

Over the past two years, about 110 homeless individuals have come through their program, and 25 have passed away. The other 85 individuals were with The INN Between to recuperate from acute illnesses such as pneumonia or a wound, or to undergo intensive treatments, such as chemotherapy or surgery, which can't be initiated unless the patient has a stable home environment.

“We do our best to help these clients secure stable housing before they leave The INN Between, but many return to the streets due to the shortage of affordable housing,” said Kim Correa, Executive Director of The INN Between. Sometimes, terminally ill residents might go home to family or the hospital at the very end, but in most cases they stay with The INN Between through end of life.

“The need for these services is very great. We are at capacity and have a waiting list of about 15-20 people,” said Correa.

The INN Between is currently in the early process of conducting a feasibility study to build a new building that would replace the existing buildings and increase the number of beds. The feasibility study is considering what a 25-35 bed facility might cost and look like. Early estimates for the project are between $6 and $6.5 million. According to Correa, the current Guadalupe school building requires over $1M in earthquake retrofitting, and would be very costly to remodel into a care facility. “The buildings we are in now are quite old and have several issues, and a new building would be designed to beautify the neighborhood,” she said.

The INN Between operates as an Independent Living Facility, and these types of facilities do not require a license by the State Department of Health. “We partner with Intermountain Healthcare Home Health and Hospice who provides the end-of-life care our residents need and we work with those nurses and doctors to make sure patients are able to stay with us,” said Correa.

To qualify, residents must be homeless, over the age of 18, have low income, and have a seriously ill or terminally ill condition. They must be capable of independent living, such as doing activities like walking, using the toilet, eating, and bathing. “Some people have a perception that ‘I’m dying and I’m going to be bed ridden,’” Correa said, “but in most cases, people are up and walking around until the very end, but then all of a sudden they decline, and they decline very quickly.”

“There are some misconceptions about The INN Between,” Correa said. “A lot of people think we are a shelter, but we are nothing like a shelter. There’s a misconception that we take anyone – people with a cold or a sniffle or a cut – but with our limited space, we work very closely with local hospitals, the Fourth Street Clinic and other service providers to prioritize individuals with the greatest need.”

Neighbors have expressed fears that The INN Between could become crime-ridden like the Rio Grande area. They worry about the lack of a cap on the number of beds.

Some nearby residents have been skeptical of the INN Between’s mission, and critical of activity on the property, such as smoking. “We really do the best we can to work with neighbors. With a new building, we could address even more of the concerns residents have. One goal would be to have an enclosed, filtered atrium on the roof for smokers.”

Other concerns have been expressed about increased traffic, and safety issues related to sex offenders in the facility. Some residents who are on the sex offender registry have not updated their address since moving to The Inn Between.

In the past, residents have used the Poplar Grove Community Council meetings to air their concerns, but the issue tended to take over the meetings. To help keep lines of communication open, Correa has formed a resident-run Neighborhood Advisory Council to hear neighbors’ concerns, answer questions and receive input about ways to improve operations and neighborhood relations.”

The Neighborhood Advisory Council meets the first Wednesday of every month from 7 to 8 p.m. at The INN Between. Everyone is welcome to come and bring concerns or questions to the council.