Leveraging Health Care Resources
In their Integrate Health Care blog from August 2018, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) states that people experiencing homelessness often have serious and complex health challenges, including mental health problems and substance use disorders, chronic medical conditions like diabetes and hypertension, and infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, and tuberculosis. Further, research from the California Policy Lab finds that these health challenges are particularly severe for people experiencing unsheltered homelessness. Those experiencing unsheltered homelessness were 25 times as likely to report having all three of the following conditions concurrently when compared to their sheltered peers: physical health condition, mental health condition, and substance abuse condition. Ensuring access to quality health care must be a part of a community’s work to end homelessness.
Combining health care resources with safe, affordable, and accessible housing improves health outcomes for people experiencing homelessness, improves their quality of life, and has the added benefit of reducing costs in the healthcare system. Health care services are more effective when a patient is stably housed, and in turn, maintaining housing is more likely if proper health care services are delivered. This is why leveraging healthcare services to support people with histories of homelessness is so important.
The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed many communities to expand their partnerships with healthcare organizations, including public health. This collaboration has built a solid foundation to continue to grow these partnerships. Examples of organizations that can help you leverage healthcare resources include:
- Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) providers
- Mental health and recovery treatment programs
- Local hospitals
- State and local health departments
When determining which organizations you should engage, it is also important to include people with lived experience in discussions on what health care partnerships and resources are needed at the table.