There’s No Place Like Home in Healthcare

Housing the Homeless Key to Controlling Costs

Elizabeth BuckElizabeth Buck and Dr. Jeffrey Brenner’s July 16, 2014 post in Philly.com’s The Field Clinic blog makes the case for why “There’s no place like home in healthcare: Housing the homeless is key to controlling costs.”

Buck points to the $300,000 that the State of New Jersey recently spent to evict the residents of Camden’s tent city. That amount is “nearly half the amount of money it would take to provide permanent housing and supportive services for thirty individuals over the course of a year.”

Dr. Jeffrey BrennerDismantling the tent city left its homeless inhabitants scattered without permanent places to stay with some ended up in “expensive hospital beds.” But permanent supportive housing provided through Housing First which is “reducing chronic homelessness” throughout the country is a better alternative.

“It’s estimated that the public saves $10,000 for every tenant housed in permanent supportive housing. Had all of these individuals been placed into permanent supportive housing using the Housing First model, the net savings would have totaled nearly $1,000,000.” This model’s success is due to first prioritizing safety and triaging the chronically homeless with the most barriers who are hardest to house.

“No amount of medicine is going to truly fix a person sleeping on a park bench.” But Camden will continue to spend “tens of millions” on the chronically homeless until it creates Housing First for its most expensive homeless hospital patients.

“As the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides insurance to more individuals, leaders in hospitals, cities, counties, states, and the federal government need to seriously consider the cost of not paying for Housing First. Without it, we will find ourselves with a truly unsustainable healthcare budget and the needless suffering of our fellow citizens.”

Dr. Brenner directs the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers where Buck is a Program Manager. The Camden Coalition works to improve housing options for high-utilizing patients of the healthcare system in Camden.

Click here for the full blog post.