In 1987, thirteen year old Brent Eley was diagnosed with a fast growing malignant cancer. Seeking the best care, Brent and his family traveled from Colorado to Iowa City for Brent to receive a bone marrow transplant in hopes of eradicating his cancer. Sadly, after 162 days, Donn and Linda Eley returned home without Brent. The Eley’s were deeply inspired by their son’s courage, and established the Brent Eley Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization, 10 years later in Brent’s honor to help other families going through the same diagnosis and treatment the Eley’s endured. ULC
The Eley’s recognized a significant gap in housing near hospitals for families to stay when they are receiving complicated treatment far from home. More prudently, the Eley’s knew that families would not only need housing, but housing that was safe, clean, and suitable for patients after lifesaving treatments.
“Home is where we want to feel safe. Access to a safe and comfortable “home,” as a necessary shelter, a source of identification, and a place to rest and relax is both a psychological and physical necessity (Bashir, 2002).”
In partnership with Children’s Hospital Colorado, Brent’s Place developed standards for “Safe-Clean” housing suitable for patients with compromised immune systems to recover after receiving life-saving treatments like bone marrow transplants. The strict standards minimize exposure to bacteria, dander, dirt, dust, mold, and other airborne toxins found in public space including hotels and other rental properties that currently represent the only alternative for immune-compromised patients receiving care far from home.
In 1998, the first Brent’s Place facility opened its doors close to the old Children’s Hospital Colorado location. The first facility had five apartments, all remodeled to Safe-Clean standards for patients receiving bone marrow transplants. Quickly, the need for space outgrew one location and the 2nd Brent’s Place opened on Marion Street bringing the total number of apartments to 10.
When Children’s Hospital Colorado moved to the Anschutz Medical Campus, Brent’s Place purchased land with the intent of building a new facility in close proximity to the hospital. In 2009, Brent’s Place opened a new state-of-the-art 18 unit facility blocks away from Children’s Colorado. Only a few years later, Brent’s Place was again operating at full capacity, sparking a discussion to expand yet again. In 2017, Brent’s Place opened a second building in Aurora named Tanner’s House to honor Tanner Seebaum. (maybe a link to a Tanner story) Within 10 days of opening, the new building was yet again filled with families seeking support, bringing the total number of units near Anschutz to 44.
Not only can up to seven family members stay together in one apartment, there is no limit as to how long they can stay. Brent’s Place works with hospital partners to determine the length of stay, which averages 131 days.
“We are one of the only long-term housing options in Colorado capable of supporting an entire family during the long treatment process. Because we believe that together is always better, Brent’s Place helps families stay together so that they may simply be together.” said Sean Meyerhoffer, CEO of Brent’s Place.
When families stay at Brent’s Place, they do not receive a bill allowing them to fully focus on recovery and their family’s well-being. Reducing the expense of relocation, housing, and food has long-term benefits during a patient’s treatment and enables families to return home sooner with a greater sense of financial security. Nearly 70% of Brent’s Place families qualify as low-income, underscoring the reality that families staying are particularly vulnerable to additional hardship. Brent’s Place also dedicates a staff person to help support each family’s individual needs as well as a staff person to help families maximize their insurance and Medicaid benefits related to transportation, housing, and meals, in addition to collaborating with other community agencies who offer added support for families.
As the nationally recognized hospitals in Colorado continue to attract families willing to travel hundreds of miles for the best care, Brent’s Place continues to look to the future. In collaboration with the Forum at Fitzsimons, an apartment complex on the Anschutz Medical Campus, Brent’s Place began leasing 14 apartments in 2019 to serve a wider variety of families including pediatric solid organ transplant patients and more adults receiving bone marrow transplants.
The Board and staff at Brent’s Place are actively working towards solidifying a long-term plan to sustain and grow opportunities to provide their one of a kind housing and services for more families. Their relationships with philanthropic organizations and hospitals are key to fulfilling their mission, as well as the generosity of individuals and corporations. To learn more about how to give to Brent’s Place, visit brentsplace.org/donate.