What’s It Like to Stay in a Fisher House?

A Fisher House in Washington D.C.. Image © Paul Morigi/Getty Images

A Fisher House provides lodging for the families of sick or injured members of the United States Armed Forces or military veterans while their loved one is receiving treatment at a military or VA hospital. There is no charge for family members to stay in a Fisher House.

What Are Fisher House Facilities Like?

Fisher Houses are large, comfortable, multi-family, home-like buildings usually located near the military hospital or VA facility.

Most provide tastefully decorated individual suites containing comfortable sleeping and bathroom areas for each family. The shared common areas may include a large kitchen and dining room sufficient to support the needs of several families, an area where supervised young children can safely play, a living-room-like area for relaxing, and an area for quiet conversation. In some cases, there may be outdoor areas for relaxing.

Each Fisher House has a manager. Most also have volunteers and can assist guests in accessing supportive services such as clergy members or baby sitters. Most are located within walking distance of a military or VA hospital. Those that are not within walking distance provide transportation to the hospital.

What Is the Experience of Staying in a Fisher House Like?

Because U.S. military members tend to be young, many of the people staying in Fisher Houses are young and many guest families include small children.

Although each family has its own private bedroom and bathroom, Fisher Houses serve many families at a time so they are a type of communal living. Especially in the morning and the evening, the common areas can be busy places as guests prepare and eat meals, get ready for whatever the coming day at the hospital will bring, or process the events of the just-completed day at the hospital.

All Fisher House guests are coping with the effects of having a family member wounded or seriously ill and requiring treatment, sometimes for months at a time. For each of these guests, there was a terrible moment in time when life took a radical change in direction as they got the news that their loved one had been wounded or was seriously ill.

From that moment, they were plucked from their normal lives and catapulted into an emotionally tumultuous series of life changing events and decisions. Some had very little time to pack their bags, pack up the children, find someone to care for their pets, call in sick for their jobs, and travel across the country to a place they’ve never been before and where they knew no one. Then, they began the process of dealing with their loved one’s medical issues and trying to put a sometimes radically-changed life back together.

Because of this very difficult shared experience, many guests form lasting friendships with people they meet while staying in the same Fisher House.

Although the reasons guests require the services of a Fisher House are rarely joyful, the camaraderie and sense of community can result in a surprisingly upbeat milieu. It’s not uncommon to hear children giggling and playing and adults chatting and laughing as they prepare meals or wind down together at the end of the day.

Learn More

Official Website of the Fisher House Foundation

I was a grateful guest at the Fisher House on the campus of Washington D.C.’s Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2008.

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