Pope’s Visit Making it Harder for Families Seeking Medical Care to Find Lodging

Vatican Pope

Families coming to Philadelphia for medical care at the end of September may have some trouble finding a place to sleep while their loved ones receive treatment.

The City of Philadelphia will host the World Meeting of Families Congress from Sept. 22 to 25, and the Pope will visit from Sept. 26 to 27. A nonprofit that offers free or low-cost housing to families who come to the Philadelphia area for medical treatment is looking for more places for those families to stay during that time.

Hosts for Hospitals began a five-month campaign in May with a goal of adding 50 homes for patient-families during the papal visit. Currently, the campaign has secured nine new host-homes, with two added within the last week.

“Already each day scores and scores of patient-families need lodging assistance,” said Mike Aichenbaum, executive director of HfH. “Unless we as a community do something, an unbelievable number of patient-families will have nowhere to stay.”

All hotels within 100 miles of the city have been fully booked during the time of the Pope’s visit since May, according to the nonprofit’s website. HfH expects all other patient-family lodging facilities in Philadelphia to be fully booked as well.

Aichenbaum said HfH currently lodges 15 to 20 patient-families each night. He said HfH “desperately” needs at least 50 more host-homes for patient-families during the Pope’s visit.

The patient-family lodging need will pertain both to patient-families who normally will be coming to Philadelphia area hospitals for specialized medical care and to those families that experience medical emergencies in association with their being in town to experience the Papal visit, according to a press release from HfH.

While hosting services like Ronald McDonald House only allow families of children to stay in their homes, HfH accepts families of patients of all ages.

“Hosts for Hospitals is basically one of those pay-it-forward stories,” Steven Schiff of HfH said. “It’s complete strangers opening up their homes to people in need.”

HfH has over 500 host-homes in their network, but Schiff said not all are active at once and many have conditions, such as length of stay, for hosting.

In addition to the city’s 1.5 million residents, an estimated 1.5 million visitors will crowd the area during the week of Sept. 20, when Pope Francis makes his way around Philadelphia.

According to HfH, host-homes must be located within an hour drive of Center City.

HfH serves 75 hospitals and care facilities in the Philadelphia area, according to its website. Aichenbaum said HfH is partnering with both the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and The Thomas Jefferson University Hospital to help recruit new hosts. HfH partners with nearly all area hospitals providing specialized medical care to out-of-town patients.

Host-homes need only provide their guests with a comfortable bed, bathroom access, and a feeling of home. Guests are responsible for their own food and transportation, HfH said in a press release.

To offer your home to a patient-family in need, go to http://www.hostsforhospitals.org/website/hosts/host-application.

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