Uniting Health and Housing To Create Hopeful Futures

After steady reductions from 2010 to 2016, homelessness has increased steadily over the last four consecutive years. That means it’s more important than ever to do everything we can to ensure that once we move people off the streets and into housing, they have the support they need to move forward into hopeful futures. That support, if it’s to be effective, must include health services.

At Mercy Housing, we have been integrating the worlds of health and housing for the past 40 years. As we build and operate new developments, we see evidence every day that residents are able to improve their physical, behavioral, and emotional health when certain services are offered in combination with affordable housing.

Take Susan, a former resident of Mather Veterans Village in Rancho Cordova, California. After living without a home for many years and suffering from post-traumatic stress and substance abuse related to her military service, she moved into Mather Veterans Village. There, a case manager and therapist helped her to process her trauma and get into a recovery program for substance abuse. She got clean, and this year, she was able to purchase a home to share with her 82-year-old mother.

“You can give someone a house, but if you don’t support them in their recovery, they’re not going to keep it,” Susan says in this moving video. “And if you don’t give them shelter, how long can their recovery possibly last?”

Most residents in our housing take advantage of on-site services designed to help them thrive. Here are some examples of how Mercy Housing California uses on-site services to help residents who formerly experienced homelessness to improve their health and wellbeing long-term:

• Connecting to Community Services: Our resident services staff connects tenants with supportive services such as food stamps, Medicaid, and in-home assistance for people who are elderly or have disabilities.

• Making it Easier to Be Healthy: Many of our communities offer transportation to doctor’s appointments, on-site health screenings for conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, and COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. This improves resident health while reducing health care costs (For example, the medical costs incurred by individuals with chronic mental illness (CMI) in permanent supportive housing were 28.7% lower than those incurred by people with CMI experiencing chronic homelessness, according to this recent study).

• Providing On-site Care to Reduce Hospital Visits: Through case management support that connects residents to the services they need, including preventive health care such as screenings and sometimes even on-site health clinics, we have significantly reduced hospitalization for people exiting homelessness, especially seniors. After seven years of living in supportive housing, the total hospital-based costs for 51 formerly homeless seniors living in Mercy Housing’s Mission Creek property was $1.46 million less than the single year before their move-in date, according to this study.

The more communities we open, and the more we offer supportive services, the more people we can help improve their wellbeing and live fulfilling lives.

To help us expand the world of health and housing and stem the tide of homelessness, please donate.