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A haven for the homeless: Tucson’s first medical respite center

Casa+de+Respiro+is+Tucson%E2%80%99s+first+homeless+medical+respite+center.+The+center+is+located+at+4550+S.+Palo+Verde+Road.+%28Courtesy+of+Development+Director+Joe+Lesiz%29
Casa de Respiro is Tucson’s first homeless medical respite center. The center is located at 4550 S. Palo Verde Road. (Courtesy of Development Director Joe Lesiz)

Tucson’s very first homeless medical respite center, Casa de Respiro, is moving one step closer to officially opening its doors, with leadership cutting the ribbon at a ceremony that took place Tuesday. 

The center aims to increase accessibility to health services for Tucson’s homeless community and reduce strain on the city’s healthcare providers. 

“The need for services like the ones we’ll provide has been around for a long time,” Scott Kim, the program director for Casa de Respiro, explained. “We’ve known for many years that hospitals face difficulty with discharging people because they know they’re not going to get the aftercare that they need.”

To tackle these issues, Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona, the organization behind the Casa de Respiro program, has initiated a partnership with El Rio Health Center. Kim noted that the philanthropic support from Catholic Community Services and the novel partnership with a healthcare provider “makes this a program that is sustainable for the community,” easing the financial and logistical issues that have prevented the development of similar programs in the past. 

According to Kim, providers at El Rio and other healthcare facilities in Tucson will be able to refer unhoused patients to Casa de Respiro, ensuring that these patients receive the post-treatment care that they need. 

The 15,000-square-foot center will contain 36 beds for men, 10 beds for women and two private rooms for patients with individual needs like hospice care. The facility will also include several common areas, including a kitchen, group therapy rooms and outside spaces. 

Patients will be able to stay at the center to properly recover from medical treatments for acute and serious chronic conditions. 

The center will also offer other types of support for patients as well, including assistance with housing and income insecurity, mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment. 

The opening of Casa de Respiro has been long-awaited, with work on the project beginning back in 2015. 

“There’s been a great many challenges over the years,” Kim said, citing obstacles such as finding a suitable location for the center, assuaging community concerns and the COVID-19 pandemic halting construction. 

In preparation for accepting the center’s first patients early next year, Kim mentioned maintaining a “solid foundation for how we operate” as being a main priority for the center’s staff.

“We’re committed to ensuring that we are following best practices and constantly reviewing the quality of the care that we’re providing,” Kim said. 

Looking ahead to Casa de Respiro’s future, Kim referenced the recent expansion of the center’s counterpart in Phoenix, which offers similar post-treatment care for houseless individuals and contains 200 beds. 

“We’ll continue to assess the need and demand of the services we offer and look at ways at which we might be able to expand,” Kim said. 

For those who wish to support Casa de Respiro, Kim encouraged those connected to their healthcare community to spread the word about the center to healthcare officials and providers. 

“Alerting those in decision-making positions that you believe that this is something the community needs would go a long way,” Kim said.


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