solace friends, inc.
At around the same time, Ann spent a week volunteering in Washington DC, at Joseph's House, where people experiencing homelessness were cared for in their last weeks of life. The exquisite kindness, attentive care, and true community feel in that home inspired Ann to ask: Does Dane County need a facility like this?
Looking for answers
When Ann returned from Joseph's House, she took her question to local homeless service providers, hospital social workers, and others she thought could provide an answer. After countless coffee meetings, it became apparent that further exploration was warranted and that others in the community wanted to help.
It didn't take long before a small group of dedicated volunteers assembled into a working committee that is now known as Solace Friends, Inc., or simply, Solace. Together, they increased their networking and conducted research to confirm that disparities in end-of-life care truly exist in Dane County.
One of the group's first initiatives was to survey member agencies of the Homeless Services Consortium. The survey, though informal, helped to reveal existing barriers to care, and indicated that of our target population, at least 15-20 people per year may need shelter and care as they are dying. All those surveyed expressed support for the creation of a hospice house dedicated to care for underserved residents in our community. In response, Solace decided to move ahead with the project.
One of the next steps was for Solace to join The Omega Home Network, a national membership organization of existing and developing community supported social model hospice homes. Omega has proven to be a valuable source of information and motivation, providing access to numerous others in the country (many of which are much farther along in the process) who are working on similar initiatives. Of the 30-some social model hospice homes in this country, approximately six are specifically designed to welcome those experiencing homelessness.
On a parallel track, other "health care for the homeless" initiatives were started in Madison. Ann became co-founder of Madison Area Care for the Homeless OneHealth (MACH OneHealth) which provides direct services to people living on the street. For two years she served as Medical Director of The Madison Street Medicine Initiative, a Baldwin Foundation-supported project which grew out of Ann's associations with MACH OneHealth and the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. Several Solace members have volunteered for MACH OneHealth's regularly held foot-care clinics.
Taking the leap
Solace became incorporated in 2018; our working group became a board of directors. Solace Friends, Inc., more simply known as Solace, is now a 501c3 corporation.
Solace has been able to work toward our mission thanks to the passionate momentum of our volunteer board of directors, and through some private and memorial donations. We are also grateful for a few small grants and personal donations that have helped cover expenses incurred during our initial planning stage. The greatest boon to our work, however, is the sustained encouragement by local organizations such as Porchlight Inc., Madison-Area Urban Ministry, MACH OneHealth, and many others who share our vision for delivering equitable care and services to this vulnerable population.