Housing the homeless is a cost-saver for healthcare providers

Supportive housing for the homeless, can definitely help the bottom lines of hospitals and other healthcare providers, even in expensive cities such as New York, according to the chief executive of a non-profit organization.

Brenda Rosen, president and CEO of Breaking Ground, told Metropolis Magazine that the costs of providing emergency care, hospitalizations and even jail for a homeless person in New York City can run more than $56,000 a year. By contrast, it costs little more than $24,000 a year to provide supportive housing to an individual. Supportive housing is affordable housing that offers on-site mental health, healthcare and job-training services.

Homeless often have perilously high healthcare costs, driven by regular visits to hospital emergency rooms, along with regular hospitalizations to stabilize chronic care issues that often flare up. As a result, homeless patients are more likely to have longer hospitals stays and be readmitted after discharge.

“When you’re asking somebody who’s living out on the street to take care of their health, and to manage chronic conditions that have often gone for years undiagnosed, or treated with a 'band-aid' time and time again, this doesn’t help anybody’s long-term health, and it’s really really expensive,” Rosen said. She later added that for every year a homeless person is placed in supportive housing, their Medicaid costs decrease by $10,000 a year.

Many cities are trying to provide supportive housing to their homeless population, including Chicago and San Francisco.

In addition to providing housing, Breaking Ground also tries to provide trendy and environmentally-friendly designs that are intended to inspire tenants to take better care of themselves, Rosen said.

There are often upfront healthcare costs for providing housing to the homeless. In San Francisco, healthcare costs for a group of 1,800 previously homeless people rose nearly 200 percent in the first year it provided supportive housing. However, it then quickly plunged to less than half that previous total.

-- read the Metropolis Magazine article