Northwest Philly respite center gives homeless men a place to get better

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    Homeless men discharged from area hospitals after serious injuries or illnesses have a new place to convalesce.

    Philadelphia’s first respite center recently opened for a pilot phase on the second floor of Depaul House, a shelter for men in Germantown. It runs in partnership with the Public Health Management Corporation.

    The idea behind the program is simple: Homeless men recuperate better in a bed than on the street. That means healthier patients and fewer returning trips to the emergency room, lowering costs to health care providers.

    “Each hospital has agreed to a certain per diem rate that they’re willing to pay us for their patient,” said PHMC’s director of homelessness and social services, Deborah McMillan. “It is generally a cost savings for [the hospitals] over what it would cost for the patient to be in their ER two and three times a week.”

    The eight-bed recovery room boasts a full-time program director, round-the-clock nursing, aides, and — so far — two patients.

    “I’ve been in almost every hospital in this city. I take care of myself all my life. You get to this point, you say, somebody is going to take care of me,” said Frank Harper, one of the center’s patients.

    Harper’s heart condition would send him on frequent trips to the hospital. But life in the respite center has given him more time to relax, receive regular medical care, and read his Bible. Harper hopes that soon he’ll be healthy enough to leave the center and move into transitional housing to get back on his feet.

    “I’d like to get my own place, cook my own food, look after my own self as I used to do before,” he said.

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