Leaving the Streets Behind: Housing Initiatives Restore Dignity

At its heart, the Healthy Housing Initiative (HHI) is about seeing the dignity of every person. A person-centered, comprehensive approach to chronic homelessness, the program meets people where they are and moves them into permanent supportive housing that provides critical social services. A five-year pilot, HHI works in collaboration with Catholic healthcare entities and includes five Catholic Charities agencies in Detroit, Las Vegas, Portland (Oregon), St. Louis and Spokane.

The goals for HHI are: to reduce chronic homelessness in each city by 20%; to decrease ER visits and hospital readmission rates once clients are housed by 25%; and to connect 35% of now-housed clients to primary care and behavioral health services. To date, the participating agencies have housed 231 people.

On any given night, more than 83,000 Americans with debilitating health conditions and a long history of homelessness sleep on streets, in shelters or in other places not meant for human habitation. These men and women frequently have a combination of mental health problems, substance abuse and medical conditions that worsen over time and too often lead to an early death. They are the “chronically homeless.”

Jason used to be one of them. Now 51 and housed, he had been living in foster and group homes or on the streets since he was 11. His adult life has been riddled with depression, anxiety and self-medication through alcohol and drugs, leading to a significant substance use disorder. Lack of education and training have rendered him largely unemployable, and traumatic experiences with the child welfare system have made him distrustful of social services.

But six months ago, Jason moved into an HHI unit. Now stably housed, his blood pressure is lower, his alcohol consumption is down and he engages regularly with medical and behavioral health providers.

Affordable Housing

Catholic Charities works to prevent homelessness by providing financial assistance and long-term support and strives to resolve issues that may lead to homelessness.

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