- Kaiser Permanente is teaming up with mayors of a number of American cities to fight housing insecurity and homelessness.
- The Oakland, California-based integrated health system said late last week it will invest up to $200 million to make housing more affordable and accessible through a collaboration named Mayors and CEOs for U.S. Housing Investment.
- The initial focus will be on preventing displacement or homelessness of middle- and lower-income residents in neighborhoods undergoing rapid change, increasing access to supportive housing and making health- and environment-related upgrades to existing homes.
Providers are increasingly focused on social determinants of health, and housing is a big one. About 550,000 people are homeless in the U.S. each night, and a third of them are in unsheltered locations, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Of those, 77,000 are chronically homeless.
The lack of basic resources and support networks make the homeless five times more likely than people with housing to be admitted to the hospital and remain there an average of four days longer, at a cost of $2,000 to $4,000 per day, according to data from the American Hospital Association.
“To improve the health of an entire community we must step beyond the four walls of our hospitals and medical offices to help those most in need,” Bechara Choucair, chief community health officer at Kaiser Permanente, said in a statement.
As communities grapple with rising homeless rates, a growing number of hospitals are claiming a stake in the problem — offering help for the homeless as a way to tamp down the associated high medical utilization costs. Initiatives range from providing post-discharge respite care, to residential case management, to helping fund new housing units for low-income and homeless people.
Dignity Health is one example. The health system provides one-bedroom apartments, or “stabilization units,” for post-discharge patients in Sacramento who are chronically homeless and have some type of disability. Funding for the program is about $350,000, a combination of community health benefit dollars and a contribution from HealthNet, a local Medi-Cal provider.
Most hospital housing initiatives involve community partnerships. “If the patient has stable housing and they’re able to access other services outside the hospital walls, their overall hospital utilization does decrease,” Ashley Brand, director of community health and outreach for Dignity Health’s Sacramento hospitals, told Healthcare Dive in an interview last year.
The Corporation for Supportive Housing estimates healthcare systems have invested between $75 million and $100 million in projects it supports. Last summer, the American Hospital Association published a guide on the impact of housing with recommendations on how hospitals can help.