The Atlantic: Should Obamacare Help Pay for Housing?

A recently published article by The Atlantic explores using funds that are part of the Medicaid expansion to house the homeless. Highlighted are many of the advantages to using the Housing First model that makes housing homeless individuals and families the main focus, especially for those with a history of chronic homelessness and health problems. By viewing housing as a valuable health service we can not only save money, but help those who are homeless and living with serious health conditions gain the stability needed to turn their lives around.

Below is an excerpt from the article:

The federal government will spend $931 billion on the Medicaid expansion between now and 2022, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Some of that money will be spent taking care of homeless people like Barnes, who can be particularly expensive to treat. Homelessness exacerbates all kinds of diseases, including diabetes. Those without homes are three to six times more likely to get ill than housed people. Homelessness also makes it more difficult for people with mental health and substance abuse issues to get treatment.

One of the best ways to keep homeless people healthy, studies have found, is to give them somewhere to live—the so-called “housing first” model, which gets the homeless off the streets and saves hospitals money in caring for them.

That’s led many advocates for the homeless to wonder—if we’re spending so much money through Obamacare to expand health coverage for poor people, why not spend it to house some of them, too?

“All I’m saying is, if I can take care of someone at a lower cost by providing them with housing, why wouldn’t the federal government let me?” said Dr. Mitch Katz, the director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.

To read the entire article click here.

Housing and Homelessness: Opening Doors, Closing Gaps

A new paper was released this week highlighting the link between housing and homelessness. Housing and Homelessness: Opening Doors, Closing Gaps, is the fourth in a series of papers that is designed to demonstrate the value of affordable housing for people and communities across the State of Vermont. While the connection between housing and homelessness is rather clear, there is much more to the issue of homelessness than what may be openly visible.

From the paper:

In Vermont, it’s just as often entire families—parents and young children—who don’t have anywhere warm and safe to go at night, forced onto the streets by inflated rents, bad credit, underemployment, or, like Laurie T., having to make the impossible choice between a roof over their heads or food in their bellies. The mother of an 8‐year‐old and a 13‐year‐old, Laurie lost her apartment when hours were cut at her minimum‐wage job. Leaving the kids with her mother, she and her boyfriend, who was unemployed, used their car as housing. The four eventually found themselves at the Upper Valley Haven, a White River Junction shelter and facility.

Sara Kobylenski, executive director of the Haven and co‐chair of the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness, says their two shelters—with the capacity to house eight families and 20 adults—are routinely full. Last winter, the staff even had to set up cots in the shelters’ public spaces to accommodate the overflow. Shelters aren’t the only answer, of course, but some families are housed in emergency motels that have been found rundown, filthy, and roach‐infested, with rooms that have so much mold, anyone staying there risks health issues.

Nationwide, five factors are responsible for homelessness: (1) lack of affordable housing; (2) gap between earned income and the cost of available housing; (3) health costs; (4) natural disasters; and (5) relationship problems—in particular, domestic violence. While the latter three are largely circumstantial, the former two are not. 

To read the full paper click here (PDF file).

For more information, contact Chris Donnelly at the Champlain Housing Trust by calling (802) 861-7305 or Kenn Sassorossi at Housing Vermont at (802) 863-8284.

HHS Releases Two New Reports on Using Medicaid to Cover Services for People in Permanent Supportive Housing

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) released two new reports: Primer on Using Medicaid for People Experiencing Chronic Homelessness and Tenants of Permanent Supportive Housing (PDF file), and a companion document, Medicaid and Permanent Supportive Housing for Chronically Homeless Individuals: Emerging Practices from the Field.

The reports serve as tools for States and communities working to expand services and supports for people in permanent supportive housing. While they focus on services for people experiencing chronic homelessness, the options highlighted in the Primer can be used by States to increase the role of Medicaid in providing supportive services to any individual who requires supportive services to achieve housing stability and improved health and well-being.

To read more on the reports from the USICH website click here.