Homeless people who are discharged from a hospital, but still have some healing ahead, will have a safe, comfortable and dignified place to stay in the near future at the Abraham & Lillian Turk Recuperative Care Center, where a grand opening celebration was held Wednesday morning in Escondido.
The ceremony was the culmination of a two-year, $15 million renovation of a 1970s-era motel at 555 N. Centre City Parkway, Interfaith Community Services’ single-biggest undertaking in its 43-year history.
“Imagine what it would be like having been in the hospital, being ready for discharge to home, except in this case you’re unsheltered, without a place to call home,” said Patricia Mack, Interfaith’s director of housing.
Mack also asked guests at the ceremony to imagine the challenge of finding a clean space to change bandages or having to choose between visiting a doctor for a follow-up appointment or keeping watch over all your possessions for fear they would be stolen when away.
Those are just some of the issues homeless people with medical conditions face throughout the county, and there are very few options for them, said Interfaith CEO Greg Anglea, who estimated there were about 75 recuperative beds in the area. Those include 28 beds at Father Joe’s Villages, a number of beds at People Assisting the Homeless’ facility in San Diego and an additional 32 at Interfaith’s Hawthorne Veteran and Family Resource Center on North Ash Street in Escondido.
Within the past year, the Ash Street facility has provided recuperative care for 147 people, with more than 50 percent moving into housing, Anglea said. Since its opening in 2015, the center has served 1,500 people.
The program has a 93 percent success rate in stabilizing the medical condition that led a client to hospitalization and a 79 percent success rate of transitioning people into stable housing. The program also found 82 percent of clients reported a reduction in depression.
The new Abraham & Lillian Turk Recuperative Care Center will provide 106 beds in 60 rooms. Next month, people in the Ash Street center will begin moving into the new center, where they will find therapeutic care, mental health and substance recovery help if needed, 24-hour behavioral health support, nursing care and case management that can lead to independent living and permanent housing.
The conversion of the original 77-room motel included knocking down walls to create a community room, a large dining room, dining hall, a nursing station and community music room that will be used to serve clients who will stay 30 to 90 days.
Looking ahead, Anglea said the Ash Street building will be converted to a non-congregate shelter for 10 to 14 families, and donations will be sought for its $1 million annual operating budget.
Interfaith bought the old America’s Best Value Inn & Suites on Centre City Parkway in 2020 for $8.6 million and temporarily used it as a shelter during the pandemic. Anglea said the motel had a bad reputation in the city.
“The only people coming by were drug dealers wondering where their clients went,” he said about the days following its closure.
Anglea thanked former county Supervisor Kristin Gaspar with persuading the county to provide $6 million for the purchase, and another $3 million came from the county with help from Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer, who now represents District 3.
Jerry and Carole Turk of La Jolla donated $1 million, part of $5 million that came from community donations, and the center is named after Jerry’s parents.
“You should have seen this place before,” Jerry Turk said, as he and his wife walked through one of the rooms with a new furnishings. “What do you think?”