By Josephine Reid
Some but not all shelters offer a few or all of the following services on site: free walk-in medical care–including exams and routine, diagnostic, and screening tests. There can be personnel that meet the immediate medical needs of homeless women and families and re-connect them to mainstream pediatric and primary care. In addition, they may provide over-the-counter medical supplies, advocacy care, connections to existing primary care resources, advanced care referrals, education and group counseling services (on topics such as parenting and nutrition).
A specific example of these kind of services can be found in the Alliance for Housing and Healing. The Alliance for Housing and Healing is an organization providing food and shelter to people struggling with poverty, homelessness and HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles County. Housing for Health is a county-funded program focused on reducing homelessness and improving long-term health outcomes among vulnerable populations within Los Angeles. Linkage to affordable, permanent housing in conjunction with integrated case management services is designed to promote housing stability and retention, as well as individual autonomy.
Their Intensive Case Management providers assist Housing For Health participants in both securing and maintaining their housing placement. Services offered include, but are not limited to, assistance around housing search and application, budgeting and money management, linkage to medical and mental health care, and navigation of community resources. There are no time limitations on program participation, meaning that individuals will continue to receive services as long as needed to ensure housing sustainability and preservation.
Alliance for Housing and Healing was formed when two well-known agencies merged in 2009 to create one entity that provides a full continuum of care for men, women, children, and families living with HIV/AIDS. This new nonprofit has an annual budget of $8 million and is the leading provider of housing and directly related support services to people living with HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles County. Drawing on the decades of experience from AFA and Serra, Alliance for Housing and Healing.
The goal is to end homelessness in Los Angeles County, reduce inappropriate use of expensive health care resources, and improve health outcomes for vulnerable populations. This is done by providing permanent supportive housing, recuperative care, and specialized primary care to homeless people with complex physical and behavioral health conditions.
AHH uses housing as a 'structural intervention' against the spread of AIDS and as a platform for healthcare. The evidence is straightforward: with stable housing comes increased adherence to often complex medication regimens, reduced risk behaviors and better access to targeted comprehensive care that supports the preservation of families and maintains individual health. For Alliance, housing is healthcare.
Whether it is a group residence that provides 24/7 nursing care, a subsidized apartment for a family that would otherwise be homeless or financial assistance for those who cannot afford the basic necessities of life, Alliance for Housing and Healing provides a broad continuum of high-quality care that reinforces residential stability.