PUBLIC Chats: Journey Home Hospice

In the fall of 2017, PUBLIC worked with Saint Elizabeth and community partners to develop the brand identity, name and engagement strategy for the launch of Journey Home Hospice, Toronto’s only hospice for vulnerably housed people. We sat down to talk to Asher Lurie about the process, and what the launch of the hospice means to the city of Toronto.

What is Journey Home Hospice?

It is a hospice for the homeless community or people that are vulnerably housed in Toronto. The goal of Journey Home Hospice is to provide the city with a welcoming and caring environment for people who are homeless to spend their finals weeks and days. We offer high quality care that’s respectful and responsive to the specific community we’re serving. Our staff and volunteers are highly skilled and receive specialized training in hospice palliative care as well as things like harm reduction, mental health and addiction, trauma and informed care that relate more specifically to this population since it is obviously different than the general population.

What’s your role in the organization?

I’m a Communications Specialist at Saint Elizabeth, which is one of the three partner organizations that make up Journey Home Hospice, alongside Inner City Health Associates and Hospice Toronto. By having these three organizations pooling their expertise and resources together, we are able to bring the vision of Journey Home Hospice to life in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

How did Journey Home Hospice come to life?

All three partner organizations are involved in supporting people at the end of life, and working to strengthen access to care. A few years ago, our Senior Vice President Nancy Lefebre met Dr. Naheed Dosani, a palliative care physician at Inner City Health Associates, at a conference. She heard him speak about the plight of homeless people in the city and their lack of resources in terms of receiving care, especially when they’re dying. They both felt passionate about achieving more equitable and responsive care for this population. Together with Hospice Toronto, which has strong volunteer and community support programs, the three organizations began bringing to life this vision.

How are people in need of the hospice identified?

Inner City Health Associates has a mobile outreach team that is made up of doctors and nurses that provide palliative education and care for the homeless and vulnerably housed population in Toronto. Together with a network of other community organizations, they are identifying patients that could benefit from moving into the hospice and receiving care there. It is ultimately through this network that individuals are brought to the hospice.

Why do you think Journey Home Hospice is so important in Toronto? 

The need is enormous in the city of Toronto. At any given time more than 5,000 people experience homelessness in Toronto and many of them die in isolation. If you think about it, Journey Home Hospice consists of two topics that society often tries to avoid: homelessness and dying. These are topics that are difficult to speak about and complex to address. There’s this big gap where so many people could use the support and aren’t receiving it. If we can first make people aware of it and then create the space where they can receive care and die a dignified death, I think that’s really important. In such a big city that has so many people experiencing homelessness, I think that Journey Home Hospice is extremely important.

What’s next for Journey Home Hospice?

We launched at the start of the month, so we’ve accepted our first residents. Right now the location we have open is a four bed pilot project, with the hope to be able to serve 40-50 people annually. The goal is to open a ten bed hospice in the next two years that would be able to serve around 100 people annually. That’s the vision. To make that happen there’s still a lot of work to be done. Our fundraising goal is $10 million so we are working every day to try and reach that goal. We need community support and those around us in the city to make this vision a reality. We’re just at the beginning! Looking forward to moving ahead and having that 10 bed hospice open in the next couple years.

How can people learn more and get involved?

On our website, there is a place where you can donate. We appreciate any donation big or small. People who are interested in getting involved in other ways can visit our website and learn about volunteer opportunities or hosting a fundraising event themselves with proceeds going towards Journey Home Hospice. There’s a lot of opportunities to get involved in different ways depending on your capacity. If none of that is applicable, you can always Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and share our videos. Anything to help spread awareness is a big help.

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