I have been a board member of ShelterCare and a donor since 2017. When you think of an agency battling homelessness, the first picture in your mind may be of a homeless shelter or emergency housing. When I was invited to join the Board, I went on an extensive tour of ShelterCare’s programs. I was flabbergasted to understand how much ShelterCare does. ShelterCare provides a myriad of services, ranging from homelessness prevention and rental assistance to transition programs such as medical recuperation housing to permanent supported housing to meet the needs of the community. It layers a housing-first approach with extensive support including behavioral health services. Over the past year, I have seen how ShelterCare has adjusted its programs and developed new programs in partnership with other non-profits and government agencies to meet the evolving needs of the community.
As someone who has worked in health care finance for the past 30 years, I am keenly aware of the relationship between health, social determinants of health, and cost. Health problems, both physical and mental, can contribute to unstable housing, which in turn can lead to worsening health, creating a negative spiral in the lives of people experiencing homelessness. People with unstable housing are likely to suffer from worse chronic health conditions, and have lower access to regular care, resulting in greater use of inpatient and emergency services. Arizona has been providing Permanent Supported Housing to some of its Medicaid enrollees through a waiver with the federal government. They found a 31% reduction in emergency room visits and a 44% reduction in inpatient visits among transitioning members who were homeless or at risk of homelessness with health conditions into permanent supported housing AddressingHealthcareAndHousing_Infographic.pdf (azahcccs.gov) Addressing Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) can be more impactful than clinical interventions in many circumstances.
That is one of the many reasons why I am so committed to the Housing First model that ShelterCare espouses.
For people with chronic health conditions, housing is healthcare.
Investing in ShelterCare is investing in our community.