Caring for patients with lived experience of homelessness [2020]

Objective To guide family physicians working in a range of primary care clinical settings on how to provide care and support for patients who are vulnerably housed or experiencing homelessness.

Sources of information The approach integrates recommendations from evidence-based clinical guidelines, the views of persons with lived experience of homelessness, the theoretical tenets of the Patient’s Medical Home framework, and practical lessons learned from family physicians working in a variety of clinical practice settings.

Main message Family physicians can use simple and effective approaches to identify patients who are homeless or vulnerably housed; take initial steps to initiate access to housing, income assistance, case management, and treatment for substance use; and work collaboratively using trauma-informed and anti-oppressive approaches to better assist individuals with health and social needs. Family physicians also have a powerful advocacy voice and can partner with local community organizations and people with lived experience of homelessness to advocate for policy changes to address social inequities.

Conclusion Family physicians can directly address the physical health, mental health, and social needs of patients who are homeless or vulnerably housed. Moreover, they can champion outreach and onboarding programs that assist individuals who have experienced homelessness in accessing patient medical homes and can advocate for broader action on the underlying structural causes of homelessness.

Anne Andermann, Gary Bloch, Ritika Goel, Vanessa Brcic, Ginetta Salvalaggio, Shanell Twan, Claire E. Kendall, David Ponka and Kevin Pottie
Canadian Family Physician, August 2020, 66 (8)