Author: Robert DeSaeger
Marlene vonFriederich-Fitzwater is opening a hospice for homeless people in memory of her grandson called Joshua’s House.

Her grandson was homeless.

“I originally became aware of the fact that people with cancer, heart disease, and AIDS and any number of serious illnesses had to nowhere to go,” vonFriederich-Fitzwater said. “In 2014 I had a 34-year-old grandson that I was very very close to who struggled with homelessness and drug addiction and died in Nebraska that was it.”

She met with homeless people to figure out what she wanted to incorporate the Joshua’s House.

“I did the focus groups,” vonFriederich-Fitzwater said. “Five different focus groups and interviewed 120 one-on-one just about what they thought their needs would be.”

The hospice will open next year in 2018. There will be between 16 to 20 bedrooms. It will allow people to bring pets and there will be art and music therapy available.

“They designed it with water walls and greenery walls and indoor gardens to bring nature in,” vonFriederich-Fitzwater said. “It’s essentially like a board and care. The local hospitals have signed on to deliver hospice care to the people they discharge here and then we provide everything else. The meals, the clothes, the support, the companionship.”

She’s been working on this project since her grandson passed away several years ago.

“I really feel like he’s guiding me and opening doors and connecting me to the right people,” vonFriederich-Fitzwater said. “I would hope he would be happy and pleased which I think he would but I really hope he would be.”

WHAT: 4th Annual Interfaith Homeless Memorial Service

WHEN: December 21, 2017 7pm-8pm

WHO: Volunteers, corporate partners, general public

WHERE: Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 2620 Capitol Ave. Sacramento

WHY: To remember our homeless neighbors who died in 2017

Joshua’s House to become one homeless hospice facility on West Coast

A retired Sacramento doctor is creating a hospice center for the terminally ill experiencing homelessness.

Joshua’s House will be next to Loaves and Fishes in the River District.

Marlene Von Friederichs-Fitzwater is in the process of completing the sale of the industrial lot and will convert it into a homeless hospice center.
Marlene Von Friederichs-Fitzwater

“Everybody should have that opportunity to die with respect, dignity and love,” she said. “These are people with heart disease, cancer, AIDS — whatever serious terminal illness — that otherwise would be on the street, and die on the street.”

Fitzwater is a retired professor with UC Davis School of Medicine, a professor emeritus at Sacramento State and the founder of the nonprofit Health Communication Research Institute.

The Sacramento facility is named after her 34-year-old grandson who died in 2014 while homeless in Nebraska.

“When he was clean and sober, we would talk a lot about what his purpose was in life. He wanted to help those he saw on the street who were sick, dying and had no one to care for them,” she explained. “So this is in his memory. It’s a tribute to his compassion and his love for others. This is something I feel very much guided by him.”

Courtesy photo Joshua

Joshua’s House will be among just a handful in the country offering this type of end-of-life care — and is the first in the West Coast.

“It really struck me when I was at UC Davis working in the cancer center and learning some of the people we were treating were homeless,” she explained. “They can be treated at a local hospital, but we don’t have enough MediCal beds, we don’t have 24-hour shelters, we don’t have places where hospice care could be provided.”

Fitzwater said doctors have agreed to discharge terminally ill patients, and then provide hospice care at Joshua’s House to their patients.

Marlene Von Friederichs-Fitzwater

“The hospital certainly doesn’t want to discharge people back on the street,” she said. “We’re not a nursing facility. We’re not a medical facility. It’s more like a room and board.”

The center will initially have 16 to 20 beds, a chapel, library, music and art therapy, as well as reunification services for those wanting to mend ties with family.

“I one-on-one interviewed about 130 people who were homeless, and the big issue for them is a fear of dying on the street alone,” she said. “They already feel invisible and forgotten, and then to think about their life ending on the street. It’s a fear they all share.”

Marlene Von Friederichs-Fitzwater

Residents will also be able to keep their pets if possible.

“They want to bring nature in so they don’t feel like they are in a box. They don’t want to be reminded they are poor,” she explained. “We are trying to create a beautiful, loving, open space where they will feel safe — but also loved and respected.”

Joshua’s House is scheduled to open in Fall 2018.

We had a very successful United Way Day of Caring on Saturday, September 23 on 1500 North C Street. We gave out more than 500 bottles of water, 100 pair of special Bombas socks, 250 personal item gift bags and containers to homeless individuals for keeping their belongings dry and safe. More than 30 volunteers also picked up a lot of trash and made a “dump run” to take trash to the dump! We have some photos and there’s an article in the newsletter on the first page about the event.



WHAT: Pancake Breakfast

WHEN: November 23, 2017

WHO: Volunteers, corporate partners, general public

WHERE: Located on the route of this year’s Run to Feed the Hungry! You’ll have a front-row seat as you watch 28,000 runners pass by 51st and J Street. And you’ll be entertained by a the best 25-piece ukulele orchestra in Sacramento. So, bring your friends and family to this exciting event!

Breakfast starts at 7:30 AM. The 10k race starts at 8:15 AM, followed by the 5k race at 9:00 AM. For more information on Run to Feed the Hungry, visit

Tickets are $10 per person, all you can eat! *Tickets must be purchased in advanced. Tickets will not be sold at the door. Buy tickets now or make a donation to the pancake breakfast.

WHY: All ticket and donation proceeds will go to Joshua’s House to built a hospice home for the terminally-ill homeless in Sacramento.

For more information visit: Pancake Breakfast Tickets

If you would like to help out at the Pancake Breakfast, signup here:

Thank you to Inside Publications for including Joshua’s House in your September edition. We are excited about the opportunity to bring hospice care to the terminally ill homeless community in Sacramento.
If you’d like more information or if you’d like to get involved, just let us know.

WHAT: United Way’s Day of Caring

Day of Caring brings together business leaders, community members,
campaign coordinators, nonprofit partners and volunteers across the
region to work on service projects that will make an impact. Volunteer
teams range in size from 10 – 200 and come out to tackle meaningful
projects that address community needs.
This toolkit provides emails and social media posts to help promote Day
of Caring, solicit volunteers and to garner general awareness of Day of
Caring and its activities.

WHEN: Saturday, September 23. Start promoting today!
WHO: Volunteers, corporate partners, general public

WHERE: Kick off the day on Saturday morning Sept. 23 at 8:30 a.m. at Cal Expo with
volunteer projects hosted throughout Amador, El Dorado, Placer,
Sacramento and Yolo counties.

WHY: Day of Caring. Volunteers are ready to participate in collaborative projects
that create positive change, build community gardens, paint walls, read to
kids, stuff envelopes, build picnic tables, put together supplies, plant trees
and more. This is your chance to show first hand the great work your
organization does and garner some attention and support from potential
donors and media.

For more information visit: Day of Caring 

Homeless people suffer illnesses and accidents at a rate far higher than the rest of the population. This is not only another of their challenges — it can be a contributing factor in putting them into homelessness in the first place. This photo story was taken in Gainesville, Fla., for an Advanced Photojournalism class at the University of Florida.

How hard is it for the homeless to receive healthcare and what barriers do they encounter?