Sojourner House provides temporary housing for homeless medical patients

OAK PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- When Tom Muenster finished foot surgery and was about to be released from Loyola University Medical Center three weeks ago, he had a dilemma. Where would he live after he was discharged from the hospital?

The hospital staff "told me, 'We don't know where you're going to go,'" Muenster said. "I said, 'I don't know where I'm going to go.'"

Muenster, whose truck driving career was derailed because of medical problems, was experiencing homelessness.

To add to the problem, he was a medical patient about to be discharged after having foot surgery for an infection. He had been living in his car before surgery. Now afterwards, where could he live? And how about other medical patients in similar circumstances?

For the first time in suburban Cook County, there is a temporary housing facility to help medical patients and those on the brink of not having a home.

It's called Sojourner House, and the facility was dedicated Thursday in Oak Park.

Muenster moved into Sojourner House three weeks ago.

Loyola Medicine, which operates three hospitals including Loyola hospital, will send patients to the facility when units are available. They can stay up to 90 days before finding a permanent home.

"They go home to recover at home. Well, if you don't have a home, that's a little challenging," said Dr. Chuck Bareis, chief medical officer at MacNeal Hospital. "And trying to recover from a serious illness in a shelter or on the streets, often isn't practical and often leads to further deterioration in their condition."
Muenster is now in a unit, which includes a living space, dining area, kitchenette, bedroom and full bathroom. Every unit includes those amenities.

"It's awesome, absolutely awesome," Muenster said Thursday.

Sojourner House is a public-private partnership made possible by several organizations. The property, which includes a large home and carriage house, can sleep up to 20 people.

The Oak Park Housing Authority owns the property, and the organization Housing Forward will manage the housing program.

"More of this type of model is needed in suburban Cook County. We're always trying to leverage relationships to make this kind of community possible," said Lynda Schueler, executive director of Housing Forward.

For Muenster, it's a much-needed home, even if it's temporary.

"It means the world to me right now," he said.
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