New facility gives cancer patients hope, free of charge

Twin Cities Hope Lodge is on the corner of University and 25th avenues.

by Amber Kispert

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison visited the Twin Cities Hope Lodge construction site Friday to view progress and sign a commitment to fight cancer.

Twin Cities Hope Lodge, located on the corner of University and 25th avenues, will house 40 rooms dedicated to serving cancer patients and their caretakers as they seek medical treatment. Project completion is scheduled for December 2007.

“They are a resource for any cancer patient going through treatment in the Twin Cities metro area who needs to travel,” Howard Heino, a member of ACS’s property management team, said.

Hope Lodges are temporary living facilities designed specifically for cancer patients who live more than 45 miles away from their nearest cancer treatment center.

Ellison said he attended the event out of his concern for the country’s health-care policy, “particularly cancer,” he said.

“I wanted to see what new developments are there to help ease the suffering of people who are afflicted with cancer,” he said.

Ellison is the most recent of the many senators and representatives to have added their names to the “Congressional Cancer Promise.”

“The promise is hope for our nation’s cancer patients and hope for our country for reaching our goal of eliminating death and suffering from cancer,” Maribeth Swenty, regional vice president of the American Cancer Society, said.

Since 1977, the ACS has built Hope Lodges around the country. There are a total of 23 Hope Lodges in existence.

Minnesota also has a 60-room Hope Lodge in Rochester near the Mayo Clinic.

The Hope Lodge will do more than just house cancer patients. Staff personnel and volunteers will be present to assist the residents with various tasks, as well as keep them company.

“There will be at least one staffer at all times, and volunteers galore,” Heino said.

Andrea Thorson, a University senior, attended the event. Thorson said she has previously participated in other cancer events, such as Relay for Life and Celebration on the Hill, and would like to volunteer at Hope Lodge.

A significant benefit of Hope Lodge is that it is free of charge for the tenants, Heino said.

“Not paying is key, but the bigger key is it becomes like a giant support group in a way,” he said.

All of the rooms in the Hope Lodge will be shared among residents, with the exception of their own private room. Heino said he hopes the common rooms will contribute to helping the residents form lasting relationships.

“The relationships that they build with others going through the cancer journey is priceless,” he said.

Starting in late November, the Hope Lodge will begin distributing the rooms among cancer patients. The rooms will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, Heino said.

If Hope Lodge is not able to accommodate all of the interested patients, a waitlist will be implemented.

Heino said the Hope Lodge is expected to be at full capacity come January.