July 02, 2008
A Home Away From Home
A little background…
Exactly 20 years ago, Mike Aichenbaum was a husband and father of two youngsters, living the American dream. And yet, within a few days his life was turned upside down with the diagnosis of advanced leukemia. Traveling to New York City for treatment at the renowned Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Mike spent six months in-hospital with his wife and children and Mother housed in a nearby apartment. Total cost? More than $20,000. How do "normal" families handle these kinds of situations-life-threatening illness and the additional burden of housing expenses which can be devastating? For Mike, there was a good outcome-full remission. But he never forgot the experience and how much it cost to keep his family at his side to help him recover.
Fast forward ten years to 1988 when Mike learned about a Boston-based organization that provides free or low-cost housing to families and individuals accompanying a relative to treatment at a local medical center. This was what Mike wanted to do-provide that same type of housing support for people traveling to his home city of Philadelphia and any of the area’s major medical centers for treatment. Hosts for Hospitals (http://www.hostsforhospitals.org) was started in 1990 when Mike teamed with a woman who had similar experiences while battling a serious disease. With the formation of HfH people traveling to Philadelphia would now have the option of finding free or low-cost housing within the homes of volunteer hosts. HfH has provided thousands of nights of free lodging to people from all over this country and around the world. Everyone who participates in this truly special mitzvah-from the hosts to the families burdened with the worry of a sick relative-cannot say enough about how important this service is.
When we spoke with Mike this morning we were excited to learn about the tremendous growth the organization is experiencing and how he is adding more staff so that they can provide the proper attention to the people coming to Philadelphia with family members for treatment. Mike also mentioned that one of the reasons they have an increase in clients is the expanded specialized services that are now being offered by some of these hospitals. As medical advances proceed, some of the local centers become the sole providers of a specialized therapeutic procedure requiring people to travel from great distances to receive these treatments. The Good People Fund will be sending some funds to help cover the new expenses…Hosts for Hospitals is such a perfect example of a small, well-managed, grass-roots organization which provides critically important services to people already burdened by tremendous health issues.