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.
In March 2021, Solace established a formal agreement with Housing Initiatives, Inc., a Madison organization whose mission is to end homelessness for those suffering from mental illness. The proposed plan is for Solace to raise sufficient funds that will cover rent and maintenance expenses for the first two years of operations. Housing Initiatives will then purchase a dwelling and rent to Solace. Solace hopes to eventually purchase this property.
With this agreement in place, we are now ready to receive financial contributions that will be used for Our initial fund-raising goal is set at $500,000 needed to cover base funds needed for the first two years of rent and programming. The earlier we meet that goal, the sooner we can open our doors and begin to serve those in need.
Today, Solace is searching for property that is suitable for our "Solace Home"—a place where our terminally ill guests can reside as they receive end-of-life care. More specifically, we are looking for a house (or possibly an apartment) that is wheelchair accessible, and has a minimum four bedrooms, kitchen, dining/common room, two bathrooms, parking, and on a bus route somewhere near downtown Madison. It goes without saying that the structure we choose will be structurally sound and in a condition that affordably obtained and renovated to meet our needs.
If you know of such a property that may be available for purchase, rent, rent-to-own, or even obtainable through in-kind donation, we want to hear from you. Accordingly, we are now ready to receive financial contributions that will be used to fund the acquisition and renovation of the home, as well as, to support the ongoing operational costs associated with our program. We hope you will help. The earlier we meet that goal, the sooner we can begin to serve those in need. To learn more and donate, please click here.