Our country, including the states in which CommonSpirit Health operates, is suffering from an epidemic of homelessness. And, with the requirements to stay and home and socially distance in response to COVID-19, individuals experiencing homelessness are very susceptible to exposure. Each day, we face the challenge of helping patients who may not have a home to go to when they are medically cleared to leave one of our hospitals.
Our mission of making the healing presence of God known in the world by improving the health of the people we serve, especially those who are vulnerable, drives us toward two goals: helping to prevent homelessness, and supporting patients who are experiencing homelessness. To achieve these goals, we’re committed to strong partnerships with other organizations that work to solve issues of health care access, housing insecurity, and homelessness, while advocating for meaningful policies in the local, state and national arenas.
Together with these community partners, we look at opportunities beyond health care alone. “It’s not only about linking individuals with services,” said Ashley Brand, Director of Community and Homeless Health. “We need to have the right partners at the table to create a seamless transition from care at the hospital to care in the community ‒ from one point of care to the next.” This includes looking for opportunities to address housing insecurity and keep people in their homes.
In 2019, many of our long-term investments in caring for people who are homeless came together into the Homeless Health Initiative, a California-based program to enhance health care services for people who experience housing insecurity.
By partnering with:
- Organizations and groups focused on energy assistance, we recognize that unpaid utility bills are a risk indicator for homelessness. These organizations work to identify and support at-risk individuals before they experience homelessness by incorporating questions regarding their current housing status when they are reaching out for utility assistance, and recently celebrated a huge victory in California toward protecting vulnerable populations from utility shut-offs that may lead to homelessness.
- Community clinics and organizations that provide services to people who are homeless, we help create respite care facilities that provide a place to recover following medical care and a pathway to permanent housing.
- Other health care systems and medical providers, we collaborate to create healthier communities.
CommonSpirit is also engaged with various advocacy organizations and coalitions working together for housing equity and justice. As founding members of Healthcare Anchor Network, a collaboration of 45 leading healthcare systems, and Opportunity Starts at Home, a multi-sector led campaign, CommonSpirit Health is leveraging its resources and voice to advance upstream policy solutions that protect the most vulnerable.
Through these and other partnerships and programs, we can examine and address one of the most important social determinant health issues. Hospitals are community anchors, and through our hospitals and care facilities, and strategic engagements, CommonSpirit is in a position to drive change and healing in the communities we serve.