A second Fisher House to provide on-campus housing for veterans and their families while receiving treatment at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System has been approved by Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.
Fisher House provides high-quality, temporary lodging for families of active-duty military personnel and veterans who are referred to Palo Alto VA for specialized inpatient and outpatient treatment, Palo Alto VA spokeswoman Kerri Childress said.
The second house will double the capacity of housing by providing 21 additional suites. The residence will be located next to the campus' first Fisher House, which opened in 2006 and has served 3,500 families, according to Childress.
The current Palo Alto Fisher House has an occupancy rate of more than 98 percent and is unable to meet the demands of veterans and their families.
Since the Fisher House opened, it has maintained a waiting list of 2,165 families, and has had to turn away 894 families. The Palo Alto VA donates funds that help families pay local hotel bills and offset some of their commuting costs, she said.
"Palo Alto's first Fisher House has been a place of comfort, healing and love for service members and their families during times of great distress and hardship," said Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), who spearheaded the effort in Congress for the first Fisher House and sent a letter urging the secretary to approve the second house.
"This home away from home for veterans and their families going through long-term rehabilitation programs has changed their lives. Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines arrive here unable to walk or talk, but the treatment they receive and the love their families give, makes their recovery that much swifter.
"A second Fisher House will help to ensure that all eligible families have access to free onsite accommodations, and that no family will be turned away."
Childress said the Palo Alto VA is pleased to be getting a second Fisher House. She doesn't know exactly when construction might begin.
The Palo Alto VA is also breaking ground on the other side of the Fisher House to build a new Defenders' Lodge on Sept. 16. The lodge is a $10 million gift to veterans from the Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation. Shinseki will be the principal speaker, she said.
"The Defenders' lodge will be a home away from home for our veterans who live 50 or more miles away -- free of charge," she said.
The Fisher House Foundation has built 54 houses at military and VA hospitals across the country, providing housing to more than 12,000 families annually. It strives to create a "home away from home" feeling similar to the Ronald McDonald Houses, which aid families of seriously ill children. Since 1990, Fisher Houses have served more than 142,000 families, saving them more than $167 million in lodging costs, Eshoo's office said.