Tyler Wheaton is feeling better than he has in years. That wasn’t the case a few months back. He was sick, hurting and on the streets.
“Thank the Lord for the respite program,” said Wheaton, 41, who is staying at the Everett Gospel Mission.
He has Type 1 diabetes, and a history of struggles with substance abuse and homelessness. Along with his insulin-dependent chronic condition, he’d been robbed, beaten and left with wounds that weren’t healing.
“I had nowhere to heal,” said Wheaton, who’d been in and out of the hospital in recent months. “I was cold and on the street.”
But thanks to an new partnership between the Everett Gospel Mission and Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, he was welcomed into a safe place to recover. At its Men’s Shelter on Smith Avenue, the mission recently opened an acute respite care recovery center for single men experiencing homelessness. The 12-bed space is on the mission’s renovated second floor.
“I’m very excited about this program,” said Kim Williams, CEO of Providence Health & Services Northwest.
Sylvia Anderson, the Everett Gospel Mission’s CEO, said the Christian-based nonprofit provides the space, meals, clothing and hygiene needs. More than all that, at the mission there are opportunities to take next steps toward stability once people are healthier.
Wheaton, who spent about a month housed in the new respite care room, is now in the Everett Gospel Mission’s Passport program. It’s a structured environment that includes a case manager and working to help run the mission. He puts in about 16 hours a week at the front desk.
“It’s so much more than respite care,” he said. “We get the tools we need to change.”
Anderson headed a capital campaign to create the space, which has new beds, bedding and lights that can be dimmed. Men in the program must be able to go downstairs for meals and take care of their own hygiene.
Providence helped fund the program with $200,000, Williams said, and provides staff to monitor people in the center’s care. That includes visits to the mission from nurses and other staff with Providence Hospice and Home Care of Snohomish County. Overseeing medical issues is a nurse practitioner from Providence Medical Group, Williams said.
Care includes administering IV antibiotics, changing dressings and monitoring other needs.
“If we were to go home from the hospital and need antibiotics for six weeks, we’d either do it ourselves or have a loved one help,” Williams said.
Imagine, though, getting out of the hospital only to stay in a tent, a doorway or a car. What are the chances of getting proper care?
Nathaniel Daniek, a home health clinical manager with Providence Hospice and Home Care, oversees the nurses’ visits to the mission. Through December in the respite setting, “we had six different individuals under our care,” Daniek said. “This is something really exciting for my whole team — the idea of outreach to this population we don’t get to serve. People usually need a home.”
The visiting team includes several nurses, a physical therapist and two social workers, he said.
For people who are homeless, Daniek said, wound care and infections are big issues.
“Sometimes the hardest thing is wound care, getting the supplies someone needs. They cost money, and you need to keep them dry and keep them clean,” Daniek said.
People on the streets also become debilitated by illnesses that sicken the general population, the flu especially.
Daniek said Providence hospital is also a partner, along with Providence Medical Group’s nurse practitioner. While Wheaton said he was transported from the hospital’s Colby Campus to respite care, Daniek said some ailing people have been sent back to the hospital for the greater care they need.
“Providence Regional Medical Center and the mission together really created an environment that’s clean and warm,” Daniek said. “It’s been great for my team to be able to go out there and see some of these gentlemen. It brings us back to our mission,” he said, helping “the poor and vulnerable.”
Wheaton said his last round of homelessness began when a sister he was staying with in Lynnwood moved out of the country. His work in construction ended when he injured his leg, he said. Drugs and a divorce contributed to his downward spiral.
Now, “I have a year and a half clean time,” he said. “You can be an addict, but put God first and you can come out of that.”
Wheaton has a goal, too, of attending Everett Community College. Healthier now, he’s learning to live a better life. And Anderson, the mission’s CEO, learned something from him.
“Tyler made me more aware of the medical crisis when people don’t have a home,” she said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; email@example.com.