Originally created 09/13/03

Respite to serve homeless patients



St. Vincent dePaul Health Center plans to expand its presence in the 2100 block of Broad Street near Julian Smith Casino with an 18-bed respite for the homeless.

Instead of going back to the streets or under bridges after leaving a hospital, the homeless would be eligible for care there. "We will keep them for 21 days and make sure they are well," said the Rev. George Foster, president of the board for St. Vincent.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded $250,000 to build the respite, or about half the estimated $500,000 to $600,000 it will cost. The balance will come from fund-raising efforts, such as the fourth-annual Wine Expo and Auction at 7 p.m. Thursday at The Partridge Inn on Walton Way.

The event will offer international foods, a martini station, a port-and-cigar bar and a variety of wines.

Supporters expect to break ground for the 5,500-square-foot respite in late fall or early winter. The site is next door to the Catholic Social Services Thrift Store, which leases space in the Curb Motor Building from St. Vincent.

The respite will resemble a nursing home, with kitchen, common areas, laundry facilities and an office. Plans also call for renovating the facade of the Bowman Building on Broad Street and landscaping. "We have a lease to buy the Bowman building," the Rev. Foster said.

Long-range expansion plans call for St. Vincent to offer health and dental clinics, job training, a food pantry "and possibly a soup kitchen," he said. A nondenominational chapel, funded with private contributions, also will be built.

During job training, people would learn cooking, landscaping or small-engine repair "so that they can get a job, get back into society and have a meaningful life," the Rev. Foster said.

Next month, St. Vincent will start selling used home health-care equipment, such as crutches, walkers, hospital beds or potty chairs, with proceeds earmarked for the respite building fund and day-to-day operational costs.

"Say you had a family member terminally ill who needed a hospital bed or a walker. When the person expires, what do you do with it?" he said. "If they donate it to us, we will get it to people who need it."

The center will sanitize equipment and sell it for "about a third the price anybody else would charge for similar equipment" while the homeless would get items for free, and donors would receive tax write-offs, he said.

"We are dedicated to providing care for these people who find themselves disenfranchised," the Rev. Foster said. "They need help."

For more information, call (803) 278-4849.

IF YOU GO

WHO: St. Vincent dePaul Health Center, Catholic Social Services

WHAT: Wine Expo and Auction 2003

WHERE: The Partridge Inn, 2110 Walton Way

WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday

COST: $50, tickets available at The Partridge Inn, St. Mary on the Hill Catholic Church office and Tixonline.com

Phone: (803) 278-4849

Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or virginia.norton@augustachronicle.com.