Housing First Pilot Project Launches in Middlesex County

DCA’s Growing Initiative with Non-Profits and Healthcare Providers Will Address Health-Related Social Needs of Individuals Who Are Homeless, DCA Provides 25 Vouchers

On December 13, 2018, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) joined representatives of major healthcare and social service providers in Middlesex County to announce the launch of a two-year Housing First pilot program.

  • The Housing First pilot program is focused on fighting chronic homelessness by providing people who are homeless with housing vouchers and connecting them with needed health care and social services.
  • Under the pilot program, DCA will provide 25 tenant-based housing vouchers to people who are homeless and enrolled in the program to help them move into safe and stable housing.
  • Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Saint Peter’s University Hospital have committed to fund Coming Home of Middlesex County for the cost of two case managers to help the 25 people who receive the housing vouchers, as well as other patients with health-related social needs.
  • Coming Home will utilize WellCare’s Community Connections database to track referred agencies and participants’ social services utilized and program outcomes.

When an individual doesn’t have stable housing, it’s hard for them to pay attention to their well-being, which often means they use hospital emergency rooms as their primary means of health care. By embracing the Housing First approach, DCA is committing resources to programs that place people in permanent, quality housing first to meet their basic need of shelter. Then the holistic work of identifying and addressing their other needs, including health-related issues, can begin.

Lt. Governor Sheila Y. Oliver, who serves as DCA Commissioner.

“RWJBarnabas Health is committed to creating healthier communities by not only providing excellent health care, but also by partnering with community-based organizations to address the social factors that affect 80 percent of a person’s overall health outcomes such as education, housing, safety, income and affordable access to nutritious food,” stated Michellene Davis, Executive Vice President and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at RWJBarnabas Health.

  • Individuals will be identified for the program by the hospitals from their database of individuals who are, and have been, high utilizers of the emergency departments at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and/or Saint Peter’s University Hospital.
  • Coming Home of Middlesex County will administer Middlesex County’s Coordinated Entry Program to prioritize use of the housing vouchers for individuals by determining the presence of health-related social needs.

“Organizations in Middlesex County and the County itself have been long-time, valued partners with DCA in homelessness prevention efforts. Their work in this area has been extremely successful and nothing short of remarkable,” said Janel Winter, director of DCA’s Division of Housing and Community Resources. “We look forward to contributing to this pilot program and anticipate it will positively change the lives of some of Middlesex County’s most vulnerable residents.”

The two case managers will help the patients with identified social needs that are affecting their health status, such as food and housing insecurity, including the 25 voucher recipients, connect with social service providers.

“We have been able to establish this program through the determination of all the organizations involved to step outside their ordinary course of doing business to reach across sectors and collaborate for the benefit of Middlesex County residents. We know that so much of what affects a person’s health status happens outside a health care facility or physician’s office,” said Eileen O’Donnell, Executive Director of Coming Home of Middlesex County, Inc. “Because of the perseverance of the stakeholders in discussions spanning more than a year, we will be able to begin addressing those health-related social needs in a concerted manner.”

The pilot program launched today is part of a greater initiative within DCA to address chronic homelessness and provide supportive housing throughout the state by partnering with local government entities and hospital systems.

DCA’s Press Release

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