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Hospital collaboration with a Housing First program to improve health outcomes for people experiencing homelessness [2018]

Purpose
Homelessness is a colossal issue, precipitated by a wide array of social determinants, and mirrored in substantial health disparities and a revolving hospital door. Connecting people to safe and secure housing needs to be part of the health system response. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

Design/methodology/approach
This mixed-methods paper presents emerging findings from the collaboration between an inner city hospital, a specialist homeless medicine GP service and Western Australia’s inaugural Housing First collective impact project (50 Lives 50 Homes) in Perth. This paper draws on data from hospitals, homelessness community services and general practice.

Findings
This collaboration has facilitated hospital identification and referral of vulnerable rough sleepers to the Housing First project, and connected those housed to a GP and after hours nursing support. For a cohort (n=44) housed now for at least 12 months, significant reductions in hospital use and associated costs were observed.

Research limitations/implications
While the observed reductions in hospital use in the year following housing are based on a small cohort, this data and the case studies presented demonstrate the power of care coordinated across hospital and community in this complex cohort.

Practical implications
This model of collaboration between a hospital and a Housing First project can not only improve discharge outcomes and re-admission in the shorter term, but can also contribute to ending homelessness which is itself, a social determinant of poor health.

Originality/value
Coordinated care between hospitals and programmes to house people who are homeless can significantly reduce hospital use and healthcare costs, and provides hospitals with the opportunity to contribute to more systemic solutions to ending homelessness.

Lisa Wood, Nicholas J.R. Wood, Shannen Vallesi, Amanda Stafford, Andrew Davies, Craig Cumming
Housing, Care and Support, 2018
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