BUFFALO, N.Y. — Kevin Guest House is celebrating 50 years of providing medical refuge to those receiving care in the City of Good Neighbors.
Their mission is inspired by the life of 13-year-old Kevin Garvey, whose parents traveled back and forth between Buffalo and their home in Sharon, Pennsylvania while Kevin was being treated for Leukemia at Roswell Park. Kevin died in January 1972 after an 18-month battle.
Following their son’s death, the Garveys realized their experience was shared among many others seeking medical care in Buffalo and opened Kevin Guest House, the first healthcare hospitality house in the nation.
“It started from a small idea of a place to stay for people who couldn't afford it and had loved ones in the hospital nearby and it just took off from there,” said Kevin’s brother Denis Garvey.
Denis said his parent’s mission started with a single house on Ellicott Street meant to provide shelter to families and patients traveling for care. That mission has grown over the past half-century to include four buildings that have collectively housed tens of thousands of people from around the world but also plenty of Western New Yorkers from Jamestown to Batavia.
“You could not be in a better place,” said Michael Fallon, a Hamburg native, who now lives in California but is receiving treatment for prostate cancer at Roswell Park. Fallon and his wife have been in Buffalo since early July but after bouncing between hotels, he said they quickly fell into a financial hole and needed help.
“At first we thought we'd manage because we didn't think we'd be here that long,” Fallon said.
But as new tests showed, new needed treatment Fallon said they ran out of options. He knew Kevin Guest House existed but didn’t know how it worked and never really saw it as an option until he and his wife really needed it.
“I don't think until you're in a situation like we've been in, you realize the frightening sense of instability. When you don't know where you're going to be, you don't know where you're going to stay,” Fallon said.
Fortunately for him, there was a room available at Kevin Guest House.
“We're the place where people come when they don't have friends or family around, but they need to get access to that medical care,” said Marianne Potratz, Kevin Guest House Development Manager.
With a limited number of rooms and high demand, Potratz explained how Kevin Guest House uses a waitlist to notify those in need of a place to stay. They partner with every Buffalo hospital and are conveniently located right near the Buffalo medical campus.
She added that while some guests only need a room for a single night, others like the Fallons have to spend weeks or months in Buffalo while receiving treatment. There is a charge of $25 per night but in practice, 2 On Your Side was told that no one is turned away because of money.
“You could not be in a better place than to be here if you're going through something like we are,” said Fallon.
The next phase for Kevin Guest House is ensuring its place in Buffalo's future. Potratz said that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic they’re installing new filtration systems and will be renovating older rooms to include an en-suite bathroom, where previously a shared bathroom space was in use. Both changes are meant to protect the often-immunocompromised individuals that stay with them.
Kevin Guest House has started a 50th Anniversary Capital Campaign to help pay for the aforementioned changes and continue the legacy that the Garvey’s began in 1972. Their goal is to raise $2 million.
If you need medical housing or know someone who might as Potratz said, Kevin Guest House should be there to help, "any age, any medical condition, any reason you're here, we'll take care of you.”