Hospitals Helping Homeless with Subsidized Apartments

Posted On January 31, 2018

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A new program pioneered by the University of Illinois Hospital and the nonprofit Center for Housing and Health aims to reduce the amount of emergency room visits by homeless patients with a new supportive housing program, Better Health Through Housing.  The pilot program has provided housing for 26 repeat ER visitors since 2015.  Since its inception, the per patient healthcare cost has decreased 18% each month and the hospital has plans to expand the housing. 

Homelessness and chronic health medical conditions are intrinsically linked.  People who experience chronic homelessness have a life expectancy that is 26 years less than the average American.  In some cases, a health crisis is how a person becomes homeless when it causes them to lose their job or fall into debt over healthcare expenses.  Of the 26 people housed through Better Health Through Housing, four people died from their chronic illnesses, and one entered hospice care. 

The program is also helping services like Medicaid save on healthcare costs.  Currently, the cost of the subsidized housing is shared by the US Department of Housing and Human Development and the University of Illinois Hospital.  The hospital pays $1000 per month per person, compared to the $3000 cost just one day in the ER can incur.  With these expenses largely covered by Medicaid and other healthcare organizations, preventive measures like housing can mitigate these costs long-term. 

Other cities are also experimenting with hospitals investing in permanent housing for the homeless and low-income people including Portland, Oregon; Orlando, Florida; and the Bronx, New York.  The investment from the healthcare community is also helping to change the conversation surrounding homelessness.  Executive director for the Center for Housing and Health, Peter Toepfer, explained, “People listen to people who work in healthcare, whether they’re doctors or hospital administrators, in a way that is different than people who are in the human services sector.  

The University of Illinois Hospital plans to create housing for 25 more people in the coming year, based on the success of Better Health Through Housing. 


Sources: Fast Company