Catholic Charities USA

Connecting Health and Housing to Reduce Chronic Homelessness

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

One night in 2018, over 550,000 Americans experienced homelessness. HUD’s definition of homelessness, however, does not include individuals doubled up with friends or family, formerly homeless staying in HUD apartments, and people living in motels, vehicles or other hidden locations who do not interact with service agencies. Acute physical and behavioral health conditions exacerbate chronic homelessness.Building on its five-city Healthy Housing Initiative, CCUSA will launch additional city-wide partnerships with local Catholic Charities, Catholic health systems and other partners to reduce chronic homelessness and improve overall health. Where feasible, surplus church properties will be converted into permanent supportive housing units with wraparound social services. Health systems will offer physical/behavioral health services on site. Case managers will connect residents to community resources – food, mobility, energy assistance, childcare, job placement – creating pathways to independence. This holistic, multi-dimensional approach fosters self-sufficiency, restores dignity and rekindles hope for our most vulnerable citizens.

Problem Statement

Homelessness affects entire communities, costing money and draining resources. Individuals experiencing chronic homelessness are especially vulnerable because they disproportionately live in unsheltered locations, and frequently have one or more disabilities or serious health conditions. The longer a person is without a home, the harder it is to find one. When chronically homeless persons and families are not housed, they almost always become “super-users” of physical and behavioral health resources. Many chronically homeless persons can go to a hospital or an Emergency Department multiple times in one week. The visits increase as health diminishes. Hospitals and insurance companies know this, and continue to seek mutually beneficial solutions that are cost-effective and responsive to patient needs.Communities pay a price as well. A chronically homeless person can cost an average of $53,000 per year in expenses related to police, fire, ambulance, Emergency Department, hospital, jail, court and social services. The entire well-being of a community suffers. Homelessness creates divisions, increases conflict over public spaces, and engenders fear and mistrust. Homelessness is truly a community issue.Healthy housing increases neighborhood property values, while also providing social, physical and behavioral health services to residents. Permanent, supportive housing is a solution. Permanent, supportive, healthy housing changes lives.

Solution Overview

Research shows a strong correlation between homelessness and health. In most communities where there is poverty, there are Catholic Charities (CC). In those same communities, we often find one or more health systems. CCUSA, this country’s largest provider of social services and affordable housing, proposes a unique partnership with Catholic health systems (national mission-driven providers) to dramatically improve health outcomes for chronically homeless individuals who take advantage of permanent supportive housing (PSH). Other than state governments, no one else has this capacity.CC remains a lifeline and a pathway for our most vulnerable citizens. It begins with a place to call “home.” Stable housing comes simultaneously with treatment. No barriers are put between people in need and Catholic Charities housing. On-site, wraparound social services create a springboard for residents to address many of the circumstances that have kept them on the streets and living in poverty – physical and mental health conditions, insecure employment, addiction, family violence, and incarceration. Partnering with mission-driven health systems to provide on-site physical and behavioral healthcare, will significantly reduce the number of hospital visits and readmissions for individuals experiencing debilitating illnesses, disabilities, behavioral health issues and/or substance use disorders. In-house health professionals will facilitate treatment compliance and medication management, provide timely patient education, and more quickly initiate interventions, promoting positive health behaviors. Housing enhances healthcare. Solving homelessness will improve the health of community members, the fiscal well-being of our health systems, and the quality of life for everyone in our community.

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