SACRAMENTO — A Sacramento woman is helping terminally-ill people who live on the streets die with dignity.

She’s working to open Joshua’s House in Sacramento.

It’ll be the West Coast’s first hospice shelter and would provide a safe and pleasant space for the terminally ill to spend their last days.

“I was on the streets when Marlene met me; I’m not on the streets anymore, but I’m terminally ill,” said John Gay.

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Transitioning out of homelessness would have been next to impossible for Gay, a recovering alcoholic who suffers from multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells.

Gay says Marlene Fitzwater, the founder of Joshua’s House, gave him a hand up.

“She said ‘John, you’re not finished with life, you have a lot to give’,” said Gay.

Now, Fitzwater wants to help other terminally ill patients living on the streets of Sacramento.

“We are losing two to three people who die on the street each week, and more of those are dying of disease, most of the time its advanced,” Fitzwater said.

She says no one deserves to die alone, so she’s converting a warehouse on C Street near Loaves and Fishes, in her grandson’s name.

“Joshua died on the streets from an overdose back in 2014,” Fitzwater said. “When I lost him, that really solidified my commitment to really do something, his name is Joshua, so it’s Joshua’s House.”

The hospice shelter will have 20 rooms and would replicate a home to help the terminally ill live their last days in peace.

How will Joshua’s House determine who gets in?

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“They need to have a medical diagnosis as terminally ill and they need to have been homeless for six months or more,” Fitzwater said.

She says most patients will be discharged from local hospitals and transferred to Joshua’s House. The terminally ill who live on the streets will be referred by street nurses.

Living with a terminal illness has become less frightening for Gay; he now has comfort in knowing Joshua’s House will be there for him.

“This is the end of life with dignity and respect,” he said.

 

Joshua’s House is expected to open at the end of the year, the three-million dollar project will be privately funded.

 

Fitzwater says she’s looking for additional properties to expand the hospice shelter, she anticipates it will fill up in its first week.