Dying Alone

There’s no greater misfortune than dying alone. Gabriel Garcia Marquez

In 2014, Marlene von Friederichs-Fitzwater’s grandson, Joshua, died on the streets of Nebraska. He was homeless and only 34 years old. Inspired by Joshua and her work with newly diagnosed homeless cancer patients, Marlene began working to create a hospice house for the homeless in Sacramento shortly thereafter.

Opening in 2019, Joshua’s House will be the first hospice for the homeless on the West Coast and only the eighth in the nation. The project will provide private rooms for 20 people and allow them to end their lives in a caring, loving environment. Residents will be able to keep their pets whenever possible, eat home-cooked meals, wear comfortable clothing and receive emotional support and compassionate hospice care. Joshua’s House will feature an indoor garden, a library and a chapel and offer its residents art and music therapy.

In preparation for developing the project, Marlene interviewed more than 125 homeless people. They told her that their greatest fear was dying alone on the street. The homeless aren’t eligible for hospice care which has to be delivered in a home with a family member or friend providing caregiving.

Joshua’s House will be located close to Loaves & Fishes in the River District. All four Sacramento hospital systems have contributed money, offered support and agreed to refer patients to Joshua’s House and provide hospice care. The nonprofit hospice programs have agreed to provide hospice care to residents with or without health insurance.

Marlene says that when Joshua was clean and sober, they “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. So this is in his memory. It’s a tribute to his compassion and his love for others.” And to Marlene’s as well.

Homeless woman who appears to be sleeping, sitting on a bench. She's wearing a dark jacket and light gray beanie. A bag with her belongings sits in front of her on a rock.

Click here and here to read more about Joshua’s House. To watch videos about Joshua’s House, click here. To learn more about the project or to get involved, click here.

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