LA charity houses families through extended hospital stays

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A local charity has been providing a temporary place to live for UCLA patients and their relatives during long stays in the hospital.

Doctors say keeping families together is a crucial part of the healing process.

On a quiet section of Westwood Boulevard, Travis Dahl of Golden, Colorado finds refuge from his worries. His wife Shawna is nearby at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center waiting for a liver and a heart.

The Colorado couple has been on standby for four months. "We came out here just for a week for the consultation and just never went back," said Dahl.

Dr. Chris Cooper with UCLA said the Dahls' story is not uncommon.

"We have patients with complex medical problems. An example might be a patient with severe respiratory failure who is awaiting a lung transplant," said Cooper.

Social workers were able to secure a spot for Travis at the St. James Inn. The service is completely free to families.

Actor Matt McCoy of "Seinfeld" and "Silicon Valley" fame is a volunteer.

"We've got three bedrooms in each home. Each one has its own private bath. Each one has a community room and a full kitchen," he said.

Father Pat Traynor of St. Paul the Apostle parish started the charity in 1988.

"He would come down from visiting patients and he would see people sleeping in waiting rooms and he said 'I'm going to find a place for these people to stay," said McCoy.

In the last 29 years, the St. James Inn has been able to offer 33,000 guest nights and help over a thousand families. The group would like to do more because the need is so great.

"We turned away hundreds of people last year, so the need is always there. So what we're trying to do is buy another home so we can help more people," said McCoy.

The group needs $250,000 a year to keep the inns running. Some patients may need housing for a year, although the average stay is eight weeks. Travis said the homes are more than a haven for healing. They're a lifesaver for anxious families.

"St. James Inn has been everything to us. Otherwise I don't know where I'd be right now," said Dahl.

Last year, helped 20 families get through the transplant process.

Its annual fundraiser is Friday night at the St. Paul the Apostle School located at 1536 Selby Ave. in Los Angeles.
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