Supportive Housing: A Healthcare Solution

Helping Chronically Homeless People
Avoid High-Cost Health Care

Helping Chronically Homeless People Avoid High-Cost Health CareThis week the National Alliance to End Homelessness released a new policy brief, “Helping Chronically Homeless People Avoid High-Cost Health Care.” This piece is designed for health policy audiences at all levels of government and makes the case that permanent supportive housing should be part of health care solutions, especially where public resources are strained caring for chronically and highly vulnerable homeless people.

In New Jersey, the 2011 Point in Time Count of the Homeless counted 751 chronically homeless adults. This brief can serve as a starting point to tailor messages about the relationship between permanent supportive housing and health care for audiences outside the homelessness arena.

Click here to read the brief.

A number of states and cities have implemented permanent supportive housing strategies and have documented relative costs offset by this public intervention. Portland, Maine, reduced emergency room annual expenditures by $1,296 per chronically homeless individual given permanent supportive housing.

Similarly San Francisco found a 56 percent decrease in emergency department visits by its chronically homeless population after providing them with permanent supportive housing.

A mounting number of studies and documented success stories definitively find not only the cost effectiveness of permanent housing interventions in reducing emergency room costs, but marked success in reducing chronic homelessness.

For health policy, the implications are clear: Initiatives to reduce unnecessary hospital costs should enable local safety net systems to target appropriate interventions toward chronically homeless people. Appropriate interventions include health care and supportive services, such as those that Medicaid provides, that enhance the effectiveness of permanent housing solutions.