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P Smith

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Review for Center For Respite Care, Inc., Cincinnati, OH, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

I was a second year med student at University of Cincinnati Medical School when I spent the summer helping out at the Center for Respite Care as part of UC's Urban Health Project Program.

The Urban Health Project originally appealed to me because I wanted to learn about the social and healthcare services available to underserved people of Cincinnati and to probe my interest in working with those less fortunate. When offered an opportunity to help out at the Center for Respite Care, it seemed like the perfect mix of healthcare and social work; of applying what I learned in school and expanding my boundaries. While every day I saw and heard about things that we had covered in class, the new experiences were what made the summer truly special. I saw a side of the city that is seldom examined and easily ignored. I learned so much about caring and compassion, helping and healing. I would be hard-pressed to think of a better way to have spent my summer than helping at the Center for Respite Care.

Respite Care acts as a safety net for sick homeless individuals in the Cincinnati area. It was opened in 2003 to provide a safe place for homeless people to heal after hospitalizations. By allowing proper recovery time, repeat hospitalizations are reduced which reduces the burden on hospitals, taxpayers, and, most importantly, the patients. But simply allowing for healing wasn’t enough. Since opening, Respite Care has grown into a place where someone experiencing homelessness can not only get back their health, but also their life. While at Respite Care, clients work with the social service staff to connect to existing social services in the area and obtain food stamps and general assistance; birth certificate and ID; and housing. Since people with a disability but no income generally don’t qualify for other housing programs, Respite Care has its own housing program that pays clients’ rent with money from HUD while helping them find a job or get on disability income.

My duties seemed to number as many as the services Respite Care offers. At different times throughout the summer I assisted with client transportation, moving clients in and out of permanent housing, client education, client job placement, housing, tech support, grant writing, manual labor, grocery shopping, and prescription pick-up. All of these tasks were rewarding and educational in their own way. Driving clients to doctor’s appointments allowed me time to talk with the client and hear his or her story. I was able to see common conditions such as diabetes, HIV, hypertension, and get to know the person behind the illness. Writing grants allowed me to understand Respite Care’s impact on the community. Working with clients to find jobs gave me an understanding of the obstacles this population faces to living a normal life.

Toward the end of the summer I spent a lot of time with a particular client, trying to help him find a job. He was willing to do any sort of work, and we applied for many jobs together, in addition to the applications he completed on his own. He is a high school graduate with some college experience and a recent degree from a computer training program. But 25 years ago he committed a felony, and now he can’t find anyone who will hire him. Whenever possible I would take him to apply for jobs in person. I could call him anytime of the day, let him know I found a job opening and that I was going to pick him up soon. He’d say “Sounds great, see you soon, I’ll be watching for you.” Sometimes they told him in person they don’t accept applications from ex-felons; other times they’ll accept the application and never call. But regardless of the outcome, he’d be just as motivated and excited next time we’d go to apply somewhere. This sort of perseverance is not uncommon for Respite Care’s clients.

By far, the most memorable part of the summer will be the people of Respite Care. This includes present and former clients, the staff, the volunteers--everyone who sets foot in the door seems to be injected with a tireless energy (that’s not to say that coffee isn’t frequently consumed). From the first day of the summer, the dedication of the people here to their work was apparent. The doctor and nurses to providing excellent care; the social workers to helping clients get back on their feet; the administration to providing the support necessary to make these things happen; the clients to healing, improving their lives, and bringing other clients along with them.

This truly is a special place. It was no surprise to me when I learned that Respite Care has a profound effect on reducing healthcare costs for people who are homeless. With the quality of the people here and the work they are doing, no other outcome could be possible.

From these people, I will take away a new understanding of what it means to care for a person and a patient. To try your hardest and do your best for someone even when you know your efforts might be fruitless or go unappreciated. To go the extra step to do something that will truly change a person’s life for the better. To have patience when working with a person who has smoked for thirty years and never held a steady job, while they quit smoking and get a job. These are lessons I could have learned no other way, and things that will stick with me long after I have left Respite Care.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

expand to help more sick or injured homeless people in Greater Cincinnati.

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Life-changing

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

Role:  Volunteer