Expanding Housing First

Ending Chronic Homelessness
Taking Cost Savings Statewide

Assemblyman Louis GreenwaldOn September 30, 2014, leaders in state government, healthcare, insurance, behavioral health, affordable housing and homeless services fields gathered for a forum focused on the benefits of Housing First that was organized by the Good Care Collaborative and held in Trenton.

NJ Spotlight covered the event with an article, “Housing First Advocates Look to Expand, Take Program Statewide.”

The Good Care Collaborative is a coalition of providers and advocates from across the healthcare spectrum in New Jersey that aims to build a strong coalition of stakeholders from across the state that is committed to advocating for sensible Medicaid reform informed by “good care” models.

Housing First is highly successful and cost effective model that ends chronic homelessness. Homeless individuals who receive apartments first and not as a “reward” for participating in a program see improved health outcomes and a lowering cost of medical and support services. After very positive results in Trenton, experts seek to expand the program to serve the chronically homeless in Camden.

Presenters and panelists made the case for expanding Housing First statewide.

Assembly Majority Leader Louis D. Greenwald (D-Burlington and Camden) was enthusiastic about expanding Housing First for the homeless. He referenced the results of NJ Counts 2014, the statewide point in time count that was coordinated by Monarch Housing Associates. NJ Counts 2014 found 13,900 13,900 homeless men, women and children were counted across the state of New Jersey on January 28, 2014.

“Many of them make frequent trips to the emergency room or require inpatient stays at hospitals, at a cost of $2,000 per day and with longer average hospital stays than patients who have someplace to live. It’s really a very simple solution, in which the state, county and local governments work together on Housing First, including a cost-benefit analysis, Greenwald said …”

Said Greenwald.

“No medical program would be able to reduce the repeated hospital stays of homeless residents until they’re in safe housing. He cited national figures that roughly 90 percent of Housing First recipients remain in their homes, while only 10 percent of those who stay in shelters have ‘housing that works for them.’”

Said Dr. Jeffrey Brenner who leads the Camden Healthcare Coalition and launched the Good Care Collaborative.

And insurance companies are seeing the cost savings in providing housing and ending chronic homelessness.

“The program has drawn the interest of one of the state’s largest Medicaid insurers, United Healthcare Community Plan. Jennifer Kuhn, its CEO in New Jersey, said the corporation has worked with data from across the country, which reveals that housing makes a difference for homeless patients.”

Greater Trenton Behavioral Health Care operates a Housing First program and documented that:

“Early participants in the program saw a 78 percent decline in annual hospital inpatient and emergency costs after being provided housing.“

“There is a precedent for making gains in eliminating homelessness — the ongoing national effort to end homelessness for military veterans. But he said it would take more than existing funding to achieve this goal. ‘It’s simply because we invested new money,’ that the number of homeless vets has dropped, he said.”

Making the case for making new investments in proven best practices, Richard W. Brown, CEO of Monarch Housing Associates.

Click here for NJ Spotlight’s coverage.