JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Sulzbacher Center, a homeless shelter indowntown Jacksonville, will debut a first of its kind facility Tuesdaythat is expected to help solve a few growing issues.
"We get a lot of calls from the hospitals that have homeless folks staying there that have nowhere to release those patients," said John Bowls, the center's health services operations director.
It is a more than $1 million medical respite and veteran's care unit located at the center's 611 E. Adams St. location.
The unit contains 28 beds, a medical room, new restrooms and will offer acute and post-acute medical care on a short-term basis.
Additional rooms and a special lounge for watching television and reading are also set aside for homeless veterans.
Itis all designed for homeless people who are considered too sick forliving on the streets, but not sick enough for the hospital.
Right now, Sulzbacher President and C.E.O. Cindy Funkhouser said the homeless community often cycles in and out of the hospital.
Shesaid they rarely have somewhere to go after they get to leave thehospital, so they ultimately end up right back there again withillnesses or injuries that remain a problem.
The cycle is oftenreferred to as "charity care," and it is estimated to cost at least oneJacksonville hospital $20 million a year.
Bowls said, "When you'rehomeless, there are a lot of health issues a home health agency can'tnecessarily take care of if you're living in the woods."
That cost, Funkhouser said, is passed on to patients who do have insurance.
"Basically, that cost has to go somewhere," she said.
Butnow, the hope is the new short-term care unit will help reduce thosecosts while also helping to keep the homeless off the street.
Funkhousersaid, "We can make sure they come here, they get fully recovered orrecuperated. They're not back out on the streets, you know, they're notgetting sick again and ending up in the hospital."
As part of astay in the unit, the center will provide services to the homeless thathelp them work toward obtaining a job and home.
In order to be considered for rehabilitative treatment, you must be homeless, at least 18 and discharged from a hospital.
JacksonvilleMayor Alvin Brown hailed the new addition by stating in a preparedstatement, "These projects emphasize my commitment to addressinghomelessness by providing emergency shelter and supportive services forhomeless veterans and individuals through the partnership with theSulzbacher Center."
Brown will join other leaders for a 2 p.m. ribbon-cutting Tuesday to celebrate the addition.
A$1 million grant from the city along with grants and donations fromarea companies and hospitals helped cover the year long constructionproject.
Sulzbacher plans on charging area hospitals a per bed fee to sustain the new unit.