It is hard enough to deal with a serious illness when you have many resources at your disposal. Now, imagine that housing, food, medical support and transportation are not readily available to you. How would you manage? Where would you turn for support?
Last February, Tiffany Wicke, 42, faced that hard reality when she was released from Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. She had advanced cancer and nowhere to call home.
“I was supposed to have a bed at Simonka Place in Salem, but my spot was given away a day before I was released,” she says.
With nowhere to go, Tiffany called her “spiritual mother,” Bunny Scalf. The two had struck up a friendship last November when Bunny was volunteering at Coffee Creek through her church’s Bible study program. “To release someone in her condition to the streets was just unbelievable to me,” Bunny says. “I couldn’t let her be homeless, so I called my husband, and we made the decision to take her in.”
Locating shelter was the roadmap to better care
Bunny and Tiffany “worked day in and day out” to locate temporary housing in Portland so that they could start understanding the social service landscape that Tiffany would need to navigate. They decided to begin by securing shelter. Each day, Bunny would drop Tiffany off at the Portland Rescue Mission at 7 p.m. and pick her up 12 hours later.
It turned out to be a good approach. Tiffany started going to Old Town Clinic in downtown Portland; from there, she was assigned a room in the Royal Palm, Central City Concern’s nearby recuperative care program.
Stable housing couldn’t come soon enough. Two weeks before leaving Coffee Creek, Tiffany had found out that her ovarian cancer had metastasized and that she needed to start chemotherapy within four days of her release. “It was a lot to go through at the time,” says Tiffany, “and I am so grateful that I had Bunny in my life.”
In July, when Tiffany switched her care to Compass Oncology’s Rose Quarter location, she learned about the Housecall Providers Advanced Illness Care program.
Referral to Housecall Providers a major turning point
Meeting Housecall Providers’ Brenda Hartman, RN Advanced Illness Care, and Social Worker Melodie Kelly, LCSW, “was a major turning point for me,” says Tiffany. “They got me fitted for a scooter and wheelchair right away and were, and continue to be, genuinely interested in my well-being.”
Around the same time, Central City Concern opened its new Blackburn Center, which combines housing and a medical clinic, in Northeast Portland. Tiffany moved there with the recuperative care program. “A definite upgrade,” she says with a smile.
“Aside from all the resources our team helped Tiffany receive, she needed to know that we were on her side and going to be with her for the long haul,” says Melodie. “Consistently showing up, following through on what we say we are going to do, basically building a trusting relationship so that we can efficiently and effectivity coordinate care and services – this is the cornerstone of our work.”
Permanent housing top priority
Recently, permanent housing became the top priority for Tiffany. So another member of the team, Outreach and Care Specialist Sarah Emerson, worked to secure a spot on Home Forward’s priority housing list. “They really are rock stars,” says Tiffany. “Whatever I need in the moment, they are there, and I can’t tell you what that means to me. This service has been amazing.”
Our team is now helping Tiffany manage her many prescriptions, coordinate care and appointments, and complete the necessary paperwork to secure permanent housing and caregiving services.
“They want to advocate for her as well – make sure that she gets all that is available to her,” says Bunny. “But it’s been their compassionate care that has made the real difference in Tiffany’s life, and for that, I am forever grateful.”