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Shelter in Denver offering end-of-life care to those experiencing homelessness

Shelter in Denver offering end of life care to those experiencing homelessness
Posted at 4:37 PM, Mar 11, 2022

DENVER — The mission of the Rocky Mountain Refuge End of Life Care center started with a question, posed to Brother James Patrick.

“A friend of mine messaged me on Facebook, and asked me, ‘Where do homeless people die?’” Patrick said. “And I said, 'Well, they die where they live — under bridges, on sidewalks, and back alleys…’ She said, ‘No one should die alone.’ And I agreed with her.”

That sparked the mission: to create a place that would provide shelter from the elements, access to needed pain and medical care, and most importantly, offer friendship as those experiencing homelessness prepare for the end of their life.

It’s a small mission to start, housed in a small wing of the Denver Rescue Mission that is adding furniture and supplies as they become available. After just one month, though, the team at Rocky Mountain Refuge believe they are bridging a wide gap in services for people who need them most — when they need them most.

“Hospices are not shelters,” Patrick said. “They’re not designed to do this. Shelters are not hospices. They’re not designed to do this. So we fill this gap. We’re about the fourth one in the United States doing this.”

In the first month of operation, RMR has already cared for its first "resident" (the team refers to those in their care as residents, rather than patients). Hospice networks in the Denver area are now identifying others on the street who are in need of RMR’s services. All are welcome at the facility, regardless of religious background, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths are all represented on the center’s board of directors.

Dr. Michele Ferguson, a board member herself, has decades of experience as a doctor working in hospice care. She has seen firsthand how important this kind of support is.

“I get emotional sometimes,” Dr. Ferguson said, reflecting on her work in hospice care. “You can see it on the face of even somebody who is unconscious. You’ll see they’re working on stuff. And they’re not going to leave until it’s settled. And you’ll see their face when they die will be smooth, and untroubled.”

The work of the Rocky Mountain Refuge is made possible both through donations and the work of volunteers. Those both with and without medical care experience are welcome to apply on the center’s website.