December 13th marked the kickoff of the “Hospital to Housing” initiative, a public-private coalition formed by the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), the Massachusetts Housing & Shelter Alliance, the Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership (Beacon Health Options), and the United Health Foundation.
The coalition appointed five community health workers (CHWs) who will work alongside homeless resource-providers, including ServiceNet in Western Massachusetts, and South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC) in the Merrimack Valley, in order to “assist shelter guests with accessing permanent housing, and will support both homeless and formerly homeless individuals in connecting to behavioral health and primary care,” according to the BHPC
Two of the five community health workers will be assigned to shelters in the Boston-area.
Joe Finn, President and Executive Director of the Massachusetts Housing & Shelter Alliance (MHSA), refers to Hospital to Housing as a “housing first” initiative. “The vast majority of people who are homeless simply need a little bit of housing—they don’t need long-term subsidies; they need a little break to get ahead. There is an undeniable stabilizing impact of housing itself” said Finn.
In most cases, lack of secure housing is the first and greatest obstacle a homeless individual faces on their path to rehabilitation.
Finn, who adheres to the policy that there is “no one-size-fits-all” solution to homelessness, hopes that the program will help to “identify homeless individuals with an outstanding history of mental heath-related hospitalizations, and link those people up to pre-existing housing placement resources, such as Home & Healthy for Good and Pay for Success.”
The Woods-Mullen Shelter, a city-run emergency shelter located on Massachusetts Avenue, was the site of Hospital to Housing’s public unveiling.
United Health Foundation, a non-profit organization who funded the employment of the five community health workers, generously donated 35 “welcome home” baskets which were distributed to previously-homeless attendees who recently obtained secure housing.
The basket’s contents included cookware, linens, and other housewarming necessities.