The Fisher House Foundation is a nonprofit organization that builds comfort homes where military and veteran families can stay free of charge while their loved ones receive medical treatment. Fisher Houses are located on or near many major military installations and veterans’ medical centers across the world.
The size of each Fisher House varies greatly depending on the size of the installation. Most have between eight and 21 suites, with both private and shared rooms. Guests at Fisher House share a household kitchen, laundry room, dining area and living room. Family members can stay for the duration of medical treatment — up to three years, depending on each case.
Since the program was founded in 1990, the Fisher House Foundation has saved military and veteran families an estimated $500 million in out-of-pocket costs for lodging and transportation relating to medical care.
This international nonprofit organization was established to improve the quality of life for members of our military community who require medical treatment. Other quality-of-life programs include the Hero Miles and Hotels for Heroes programs. There is also ongoing assistance to existing Fisher Houses scholarships for military veterans, and individual support during times of crisis.
History of Fisher House
Fisher Brothers is a real estate firm in New York City. It was founded in 1915 by Martin Fisher, who was later joined by his brothers Larry and Zachary. In 1990, second-generation partner Zachary Fisher heard about the need for military families to have access to free lodging while service members are undergoing medical care. He learned about this from Pauline Trost, wife of Admiral Carlisle Trost, former chief of naval operations.
The Fishers entered into a public-private partnership with the U.S. government, which allowed them to develop and build on government-owned land. After construction was complete, the homes were gifted back to the military to operate in perpetuity. Zachary wanted to ensure that military families could have a home away from home while managing medical care. Until his death in 1999, Zachary continued to use his own money to build Fisher Houses.
During government shutdowns, when death gratuity payments are suspended, the Fisher House Foundation has stepped up to cover them. These payments, amounting to $100,000, are for families of service members killed in action.
In 2019, Fisher Houses across the world served more than 30,000 military families.
Eligibility for Using a Fisher House
The commander or director of each medical center where Fisher Houses are located is responsible for establishing eligibility and priority. They set up the selection criteria for reserving a room. To determine if your medical visit qualifies you to stay at a nearby Fisher House, contact the house directly.
There is no charge to stay at a Fisher House. All room fees for military families are paid for by the Fisher House Foundation.
Fisher House has received some congressionally appropriated funds to cover the construction of new houses. However, once the home is gifted to the military, its revenue comes from voluntary donations from individuals and organizations. It also receives the income generated by a congressionally approved trust fund maintained by each branch of the military. Houses at the Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers receive support from U.S. tax dollars.
Rapid Plans for Growth
The first Fisher House opened in 1991 at what is now known as Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The following year, six additional locations were opened across the country. There are over 85 houses in operation now in the U.S. and Germany. There is also an existing partnership with the University Hospitals Birmingham Charity in the United Kingdom.
Future Fisher Houses are highlighted on the foundation’s website. The decision on where to build is primarily based on need and approval from the board of directors.
How to Get Involved
Fisher House is always looking for volunteers to help run the houses. For more information, a complete listing of local houses can be found here.
If in-person volunteering is not possible for you, online options are available.
You can assign Fisher House as your Amazon charity through the Amazon Smile program. Each house generally has an established Amazon wish list that can be found on its info page.
Additional Fisher House Programs
Fisher House Foundation offers scholarships for military children, scholarships for military spouses and a Heroes’ Legacy Scholarship program. Additionally, the Hero Miles and Hotel for Heroes programs also offer support to the military community when medical disaster strikes.
Fisher House is one of many amazing military and veteran nonprofits whose mission is to support the military community so they are ready to serve.
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