Housing Is A Prescription For Better Health

Effectively managing a chronic health condition involves a myriad of tasks for anyone, ranging from scheduling and getting to frequent doctor appointments to regularly taking and refilling numerous medications and eating a healthy diet. Being homeless makes these basic tasks even more overwhelming, particularly if combined with additional chronic health and/or behavioral health conditions, which so many homeless individuals have.

Compared to individuals who are stably housed, people who are homeless are more likely to visit the emergency room, have a longer stay if admitted to the hospital, and be readmitted within 30 days. “Housing first” proponents suggest that in order for homeless individuals to effectively manage their health and mental health conditions, they must first be housed. More and more evidence shows that housing homeless individuals leads to reductions in health care utilization and costs.

Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) creates a new imperative at federal, state, and local levels to cost-effectively meet the needs of newly covered homeless individuals, recognizing the inarguable link between health care and housing. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation brief examining the early impacts of the expansion on the homeless population found significant increases in coverage for homeless individuals and new opportunities to improve access to care for this population.

Less certain are the most effective ways to use temporary and permanent housing to address the needs of newly covered homeless populations. Fortunately, many organizations and communities are exploring and testing new approaches that may serve as models for other organizations.

Go to top