This month, the Journal of the American Medical Association(JAMA) reports that chronically homeless, ill individuals use emergency medical services less frequently when provided with housing and case management. We have a board member who always says, “Housing IS healthcare!” And she’s right.
Having a safe place to recover means that a person experiencing homelessness does not have to battle weather conditions, lack of sleep, horrible nutrition, etc., in order to heal. When provided with housing and (the important piece) case management, motivated individuals do well. And motivation can be acquired in the right environment.
The JAMA abstract notes, ”After adjustment, offering housing and case management to a population of homeless adults with chronic medical illnesses resulted in fewer hospital days and emergency department visits, compared with usual care.”
Dozens of people have told me that they don’t want to support homeless services. I’ve heard that the homeless don’t want help or are hopeless cases. I’ve heard that helping them is a waste of time. This study is another step is dispelling the myth that homeless people want to be homeless. Sure, you can find a few, but no one has ever begged me to get them back on the streets.
Ideological concerns aside, helping the homeless helps your bottom line. As this study shows, keeping homeless people off the streets results in fewer hospitalizations, shorter hospital stays, and fewer emergency department visits. The money saved in the process is back in the taxpayer’s pocket. And that’s something we can all support.