“Being homeless has a significant negative impact on a person’s health. This unique program has shown that it can help put people on a path to better health by providing housing along with ongoing support,” said Anthony Guaccio, President and CEO of Swedish Covenant Health.
Swedish Covenant Hospital and the Center for Housing and Health (CHH) have been working together since 2017 to improve the lives of 10 chronically homeless individuals who are frequent patients in the hospital’s Emergency Department (ED). CHH pays for the housing with a federal grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), while funds from the SCH Foundation provide intensive, medical and counseling support services.
Ten participants were selected in consultation with the Hospital’s Emergency Department staff and ER Clinical Director, Kimberly Leslie. Each month, Ms. Leslie examined a list of the top 50 frequents users of the ER and then went to work contacting each one, gaining their trust and trying to persuade them to join the program. The work was tedious and time-consuming, but in the end, ten participants were finally selected and provided with:
- Permanent housing
- Monthly rental subsidy payments
- Assistance in securing critical documents (birth certificates, ID, Social Security cards)
- Education on tenancy skills such as budgeting and paying rent
- Enrollment in public benefit programs including Medicaid
- Referrals for medical services, behavioral health, job training, MCO insurance care coordination
Over the last two years, the program has proven to be life-changing for the participants and has helped the hospital save thousands of dollars by reducing expensive ER visits. “We have seen a drastic drop in ER visits once these patients are provided with a stable home, counseling services and hope” said Kimberly Leslie, Clinical Director of the Swedish Covenant Hospital Emergency Department. “We are pleased that our initial participants in the program are starting on a path to improved health and safety”.
Bruce, for example, was a professional writer who after being hit by a car while biking, made a downward spiral, living in a shelter and then ultimately, under a viaduct. He made six visits to our ED over a three-month period and couldn’t function due to extreme depression. His life had hit rock bottom. With the help of SCH and the Housing Program, he is now living in an apartment, gets counseling and other social services and is currently enrolled as a student at Wright Jr. College. Bruce is feeling wonderful; he has a regained sense of pride, and more importantly, a sense of purpose. He has only been back to the ED once since he moved into his apartment- and that was to say hello to Kimberly Leslie, the woman who gave him a chance.
Swedish Covenant Hospital’s commitment to the community is unique and our patient care extends far beyond the walls of the hospital. As Ms. Leslie points out, “We not only take care of their wounds and their illness, we can take care of the whole person.”
This program is made possible by the support of the Swedish Covenant Hospital Foundation Board and generous donations to the SCH Foundation. For more information about this program, or to donate please contact the Foundation at Foundation@SwedishCovenant.org or 773-293-5121.