​The Westside Respite Care Program is a coordinated system of care for people experiencing homelessness on the Westside of Los Angeles County. The program is a collaboration between Venice Family Clinic, OPCC (a local homeless social service agency), Saint John’s Health Center and Santa Monica/UCLA Hospital.

When homeless clients are discharged from emergency rooms at St. John’s Health Center or Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center and Orthopedic Hospital, the Respite Care Program connects them with outpatient medical care, social services and temporary or permanent housing. Venice Family Clinic provides homeless individuals with medical services in a community-based outpatient setting. These patients also rely on respite staff to coordinate referrals and services from other community health and social service partners.

Launched in November 2009, the Respite Care Program has served nearly 300 patients, with over half connected to permanent, supportive or transitional housing, re-united with family, placed in board and care or other such facilities. The vision is to operate an integrated model of care for homeless patients on the Westside of Los Angeles County that can be replicated in other areas.

The Respite program successfully utilizes the skills of OPCC, an organization with expertise in housing and case management, as well as the clinical expertise of Venice Family Clinic physicians. VFC has provided health services to the homeless for over 40 years. Starting the program was fairly straight forward; OPCC set aside beds within an already existing emergency shelter. Eligibility protocols were created in order to assure that patients referred to the program were medically stable and would not require intensive nursing services. Respite staff met with hospital discharge planners and Emergency Department staff to explain the program and define patient eligibility.

Patients can also be referred from within the clinic located adjacent to the shelter when VFC providers felt that patients were too sick to be on the street. Having access to this service has provided a critical option for partnering hospitals who struggle with how to properly and humanely discharge homeless patients, and a relief to clinic providers who see patients whose health would be severely compromised on the streets.

This project was funded in part by CCI’s Networking for Community Health Program.