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In 2014 The four Dignity Health hospitals in Sacramento County reported 500 patient visits from those experiencing homelessness, and issue that impacts our community.
With a commitment to addressing priority health needs in our region, transitional living resources, for those experiencing homelessness, has become a strategic priority for Community Health and Outreach. In October 2014, a partnership with Lutheran Social Services (LSS) was established, creating the “Housing with Dignity” program.
The Housing with Dignity program hosts 5 transitional apartment units that help individuals experiencing homelessness, access wrap around services like; medication management, behavioral health support, access to primary care physicians, transportation, life skills training, and access to resources like “SMART” application support for accessing social security benefits, with the goal of transitioning these individuals into permanent supportive housing.
In fiscal year 2015, 15 individuals were helped through this program, with the reported success of 9 individuals transitioning into permanent supportive housing. It is noted that when a person experiences homelessness for more than 3 years, it takes around 2 years to transition and become acclimated to a new way of life within a supported housed community.
Success is measured one step at a time
One of many success stories from this program, that exemplifies the dignity and respect given to individuals who need support when taking steps through this type of transition, is of a 40 year old man who entered the program “Housing with Dignity” after experiencing over a year of homelessness. His transitional support needs were identified by a social worker, after he accessed our Emergency Department services at Mercy San Juan Medical Center. “He presented with malnutrition, and was in very poor health,” as reported by LSS program director. One of the first issues addressed was his need for access to a Primary Care Physician. After a few months of regular medical care and wrap around support services, he has transitioned from the use of a walker, to taking step throughout the grounds of the transitional housing community in strength and no support device.
The staff from LSS, focused on educating him in healthy food purchases and preparation, how to access transportation in order to maintain regular medical care, and connections with resources in the community that would support his steps of healing. “He is doing really well, continuing his transition toward better health” said the program director.
Programs like “Housing with Dignity” are supported by our hospitals, because they provide true resources that are required to expand the continuum of care.