Rhonda Jarrells of Jerusalem, Ohio, became the first family member welcomed into the new Fisher House at VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System on Nov. 26.
"It's beautiful," Jarrells said. "I never pictured it would be like this. I'm happy and thankful to have a nice bed to sleep in instead of a bumpy couch."
Jarrells, accompanying her husband Clarence, was sleeping on the sofa in a waiting area until a VA social worker notified her that the Fisher House would soon receive guests.
Clarence, a Navy Veteran from the Vietnam era, has been receiving treatment at VA Pittsburgh since November 7. Jarrells said that he hopes to go home with her by Christmas.
Jarrells says that her husband's illness had made the holidays stressful but having a nice place to stay was helping to ease some of that stress. For the Jarrells family, being on a fixed income made other local lodging arrangements impossible for her.
The Pittsburgh Fisher House, nearing its Dec. 4 dedication at the University Drive campus, allows the families of Veterans to stay close to their loved ones during their treatment. Veterans receiving extended, recurring outpatient therapy can also stay there.
A Fisher House provides temporary lodging and offers a warm, compassionate environment where families find support and encouragement from others who are experiencing similar circumstances. It is considered their "Home Away From Home," providing guests with a sense of comfort while their loved one is receiving medical treatment.
Fisher House Foundation ensures that there is no fee to stay in a Fisher House. Since inception in 1990, the program has saved military and Veteran families an estimated $192 million in out-of-pocket costs for lodging and transportation.
"I'm relieved I have a place to stay and that nice places like this exist," said Jarrells. "It's the answer to a prayer, that's for sure."