Access: The TAC Blog
HOSPITAL AND HEALTH SYSTEM LEADERS are demonstrating a growing recognition of the powerful ways health outcomes are improved by access to safe and affordable housing. By forming innovative partnerships and programs to address the housing and supportive service needs of vulnerable populations, health care entities have the opportunity not only to improve individuals’ well-being but to reduce costs and strengthen communities as well.
In recognition of this promising trend, TAC — with the support of the Melville Charitable Trust — engaged mission-driven hospitals in a peer-to-peer Housing and Healthy Communities Learning Network that brought the knowledge of subject matter experts to participating hospital leaders. Our goal was to help participating hospitals, which ranged from a large urban institution serving over 180,000 unique patients annually to several that serve smaller rural areas, to explore innovative partnerships in their own communities. With such initiatives, anchor institutions can increase access to affordable housing and the supportive services required to improve health and sustain tenancy for vulnerable patient populations, while also supporting the communities in which they reside.
From June to December of 2019, Learning Network sessions focused on topics such as leveraging hospital resources for housing partnerships, building multi-hospital and cross-system collaborations with the housing sector, identifying priority populations, and evaluating short- and long-term outcomes. Reflecting on the experience, participants appreciated the depth of content covered, and valuable opportunities to connect with other participating hospitals, stakeholders, and subject matter experts. They highlighted these insights:
Collaboration takes work — but it’s worth it.
Participants gained a deeper understanding of the varied considerations and steps required to partner with housing finance agencies, housing developers, and service providers. Participating hospitals reported feeling more equipped and confident to engage such potential partners in conversations now that they are more familiar with the practices, terminology, and vernacular of these systems.
The right data is key.
Participants gained clarity on which sources of data can be used to identify priority patient populations for housing and health care initiatives, and on the metrics that can be monitored to measure a new program’s performance.
Systems of all sizes have a role.
Housing and health care collaborative partnerships can range in size from multi-million dollar efforts, which are most frequently cited in this growing field, to much smaller initiatives (i.e. $100,000 and under). Participants from smaller hospital systems in rural areas noted that this realization gave them hope that they could have an impact and make a significant contribution to their community’s needs.
Potential partners abound.
Participants gained an understanding and appreciation for the diverse key stakeholders that can contribute to an initiative’s design, funding, and promotion. Participating hospitals learned how engaging HUD homeless Continuums of Care, public housing agencies, community health clinics, behavioral health providers, philanthropic organizations, elected officials, and others can help generate community and public support for these kinds of initiatives and set them up for long-term sustainability.
Cutting-edge innovators have knowledge to share.
Charles Richman, Executive Director of the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, described his agency’s initiative, which incentivized hospitals to develop multifamily housing with set-aside units for frequent utilizers of hospital emergency departments. Barbara DiPietro, Senior Director of Policy at the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, reviewed for participants the extensive list of recent studies documenting the efficacy of combining housing, health care, and supportive services for those who are frequent utilizers of emergency service systems. Participants also appreciated a range of publications and case studies accompanying each of the topical sessions, and reported that they have used this literature to engage executive leadership in discussions about launching their own housing and health initiatives.
TAC is excited to announce a second round of the Housing and Healthy Communities Learning Network, to be offered in six monthly virtual learning sessions from May to October of this year. This round of the Learning Network will be focused regionally, and is open to hospitals in Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
The Gab on YABs: Youth Action Boards Report on How They Are Partnering with Communities to End Youth Homelessness
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOUNG PEOPLE who have directly experienced the challenges of homelessness or unsafe/unstable housing bring their expertise, passion, and creativity to the goal of transforming systems and ending youth homelessness?
- They bring reality-based understanding to existing homelessness efforts about the unique needs of youth in a given community.
- They model a core commitment to inclusion and equity that can be a struggle for older adults and more traditional systems of decision-making.
- They form an accepting, empowering community that strengthens the youth who participate.
- All this and more!
Across the U.S., rural, suburban, and urban communities that have made a commitment to end homelessness are learning how to understand and address the specific needs of youth and young adults. Just as with other populations in need of services and resources, the insights of those most directly affected — in this case, young people with lived experience of homelessness — are essential to finding solutions. This is why one of the key first steps is for a community to form a Youth Action Board that brings youth and young adults to the forefront of planning and implementation efforts.
Over the past few years, TAC has worked closely with many communities on their plans to end youth homelessness. At the center of each engagement has been the YAB, a decision-making entity made up of youth and young adults who have experienced or are experiencing homelessness. YABs provide leadership and guidance in partnership with other key stakeholders in the process of developing and implementing a plan to end to youth homelessness in the communities where they operate.
Every community is different, but there has been a great deal of interest in “what works” for others, and communities often have questions about best practices nationally for YABs. TAC has encountered YABs at all different stages — some well-established, some that have met formally for a short time, and others that have two or three core members identified, but haven’t yet taken the next step. So TAC decided to gather a sampling of YAB expertise as a guide for communities at all stages of YAB development.
Working with Lauren Leonardis, an independent consultant specializing in youth homelessness issues and a founding director of the large and active Boston YAB, we surveyed seven YABs, seeking to capture a snapshot of each one. The communities were asked about the big picture — their strengths and challenges — as well as the small details that push them forward like facilitation practices, budget, and recruitment efforts.
The results are fascinating and inspiring as they show diverse strategies, challenges, and opportunities in each unique community at the specific moment when the survey was answered. To share them, TAC has created The Gab on YABs: a series of fact sheets with an overview of each community, to be followed soon by a “topic spotlight” series looking at patterns and trends in areas of interest like compensation, structure, recruitment, and more.
We hope these resources will answer some of the questions communities have about how other YABs are making it work. No matter what stage your community has reached, The Gab on YABs can help you bring the voices and power of youth and young adults with lived experience of homelessness directly into all planning and implementation decisions.