Giving Home for the Holidays

iStock_000004921287Small house gift  Giving Home for the Holidays iStock 000004921287Small house gift


This holiday season, we’re not going home, we’re giving home — to patients and families who come to the area for specialized medical care. It’s through an organization called Hosts for Hospitals, and if you have extra bedrooms, you can give home, too.

Hosts for Hospitals is a non-profit organization that provides free lodging to patients and families who come to the Philadelphia area for specialized medical care. It’s one of a handful of services like this around the country, but more are growing.

So what’s it like to be a guest host? We’ve been doing it for about 10 years now. We provide a clean bedroom and bath, access to a refrigerator and a shelf in our pantry so guests can cook or keep snacks. Guests do their own cooking and laundry. We provide a roof over their heads, and a place they can call home while they are away from their own home. If they weren’t staying with us, most guests would need to stay in hotels or travel 3-6 hours per day by car. For some, hotel bills would be tens of thousands of dollars.

When we first started as hosts, I got a pretty notebook and left it in the guest room so guests could write a message if they wanted to. We keep cards we’ve received from guests too, and over the years it has become a sweet reminder of strangers who became friends.

You can tell that pets are a big part of our family since most of the cards and the entries in the book start with, “Dear Margit, Bill, Poppy, Stryder, Tiger, Peabody and Ernie.” Pets are one of the things that Hosts for Hospitals screens for when they match hosts and guests; we cannot host anyone with pet allergies.

What are our guests like? Well, they are all different. Some are patients, and some are family members. Our youngest guest, 8, stayed with us (with his mom) for four months as he waited for serious spinal surgery at Shriners Hospital. Our oldest guest was 75. Bob was our handiest guest. He was here to receive Proton Beam Therapy at Penn and was home most of the day, so he kept looking for repair jobs to do around the house. He fixed a hole in our fence, took down a small dead tree and finished a quarter round project my husband had started. He took our greyhounds on so many walks they were exhausted. It was great!

Some guests, like Bob, are at the house much of the day. Others spend most of the day at the hospital. All of them, if they are home at 7 pm, watch Jeopardy. My husband makes it clear on the first day that from 7 till 9 he owns the remote, but they have access to our high speed Internet service.

Guests come for various conditions, all serious or unique enough to require specialized care not offered nearby, but not necessarily life threatening. We spend a lot of time laughing with guests. But some conditions are serious. We’ve had guests receive grim prognoses while they were staying with us, and a father who stayed with us while his 21 year old daughter waited for a heart-lung transplant. He left a note one morning, “Thank you for allowing me to stay at your home. It made a difficult time much easier. However, I will not be coming back. Michelle is not expected to live past this morning.”

Hosting is not for everyone, but for us, it has been easy and incredibly rewarding. Our guests make us realize how lucky we are, not just to be healthy, but to be able to offer something they so value, that is so easy for us to give.

The Healthcare Hospitality Network (HHN) is a professional association of over 200 unique non-profit organizations that provide lodging and support to patients and families who are receiving medical care far from home. HHN has a toll-free referral line and searchable database with information about programs throughout the country. HHN also helps communities and organizations develop hospitality lodging programs, and help existing members become more effective at serving families.

Perhaps my perspective about Hospitality Housing is unique. As a Senior Move Manager, my career is spent in homes with mostly empty bedrooms.  I can’t help but think about how well those rooms could be put to use giving home.

Happy holidays from Moving Solutions.