The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Fisher House reached an exciting milestone on July 1, 2021 by serving its 2,500th Veteran family.
Located in downtown Charleston on the corner of Wentworth and Smith Street, The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Fisher House offers a “home away from home” for Veterans and their loved ones as they receive medical care in Charleston. Veterans and their families who stay at the Fisher House stay free of charge for the duration of their time at the house.
“The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Fisher House has provided great peace of mind and far less to worry about during these tough times,” said Kat Perdue, a guest at Charleston Fisher House who is the mother of a service member currently receiving treatments at Charleston VAMC. “This place is a safe haven to come and feel at ease, both physically and emotionally.”
While almost every Fisher House has the same design and layout, The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Fisher House is different. The Charleston Fisher House opened in December of 2018 and has provides a place to stay for Veterans and their families. It is 3-story tall, 15,000 square foot home with 16 rooms for guests, a full kitchen, laundry room, library, multiple common areas, and a patio and garden behind the house. The design of the house and the quality of the furnishing make the home comparable to a luxurious bed and breakfast in the heart of Charleston’s historic district.
“What makes The Charleston Fisher House so different is the sense of community that is built between our Veterans, their families, and our staff,” said Jacalyn Slemmer, Charleston Fisher House Manager. “We are at the highest occupancy since the COVID-19 restrictions were put in place. It’s wonderful to see the interaction between caregivers, Veterans and volunteers, sharing stories, interacting, and providing support to each other, which has created an atmosphere of comfort and support for our guests during difficult times.”
Hope, Home, Hospitality
Two guests that have stayed at The Charleston Fisher House since its opening are Jimmy Vaught, a U.S. Army Veteran receiving medical care at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, and his wife, to whom he has been married for 51 years, JoAnn Vaught, both currently reside together in Loris, South Carolina.
The Vaught’s have been coming down to Charleston for Jimmy’s infusion treatments for two years and have been able to stay at Charleston Fisher House free of charge for two to three days a month during those two years. Prior to Charleston Fisher House opening, the Vaught’s stayed at local Charleston hotels.
“Prior to being introduced to The Fisher House, I would spend many long days and many long nights with my husband at the hospital, before going to a motel across the street, which brought on a lot of loneliness,” said JoAnn Vaught. “Everything changed when we were introduced to The Fisher House. From the first time we entered the doors of The Fisher house, the staff was there to greet you and make you feel very much at home.”
JoAnn Vaught went on to say that the staff at The Fisher house are always there to meet the guests needs and are always supportive, helping her not to feel the same loneliness or emptiness she felt in the hotel rooms she previously stayed in while her husband was getting treatment. She said that walking into the Charleston Fisher House, she knew she was no longer going to have to go through this alone.
To be eligible to stay at the Fisher House, certain requirements must be met. Those eligibility requirements are:
- Guest must have a military affiliation (Active Duty, Retired, Reserves, National Guard, Veteran) and be actively receiving medical care at one of the nearby medical facilities. Their family members are eligible to stay with the patient regardless of their military status.
- Guest must have a permanent, verifiable residence more than 40 miles from the Fisher House.
- Patients are eligible to stay at the Fisher House alone as long as they are fully able to care for themselves. Children are not to be left unattended while the patient is receiving medical care.
- Patients are eligible to stay at the Fisher House regardless of medical condition as long as the condition does not require Home Health services. No medical personnel can enter the Fisher House to provide care on an outpatient basis.
- Fisher Houses do not allow pets with the sole exception of Certified Service Dogs.
More information about the Fisher House program can be found here. Information can be found specifically about the Charleston Fisher House here.