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Task Force To Explore Link Between Health And Homelessness

Beds fill a homeless shelter inside the San Diego Convention Center Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, in San Diego.
Gregory Bull / AP Photo
Beds fill a homeless shelter inside the San Diego Convention Center Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, in San Diego.

The Regional Task Force on the Homeless has established an ad hoc committee in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to explore the link between a person's health and their ability to be housed, it was announced today.

The Health and Homeless Systems committee will dive into best practices within each of the health and homelessness systems, as well as identify potential future funding strategies for capacity development in the areas of recuperative care and shelter for people who are discharged from hospitals.

"Homelessness is not a system of failures, it is a failure of systems," said RTFH CEO Tamera Kohler. "Often times, some part of the system has failed a person, leading them to dire situations.


"Maybe they can't afford their required health care, or they don't have a stable place to go after hospital discharge," Kohler continued. "Financial challenges or housing challenges on top of an already fragile health situation can be disastrous for someone. We want to look deeply at this, with all the right people in the room, to find the gaps in the systems that may help prevent these tragedies in the future."

The Regional Task Force on the Homeless is San Diego County's authority and lead coordinator in the region for new and best practices and policies to prevent, alleviate and ultimately end homelessness in San Diego.

Part of the committee's charge will be to develop a strategy to educate hospital discharge social workers and case managers on interventions and strategies to assist people who are unsheltered.

The committee will also look to identify funding strategies for the expansion of care and opportunities available through California's Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal initiative into the health and homeless provider community.

"The purpose of this ad hoc committee is to bring together health and housing leaders to explore and adopt strategies to enhance our cross-sector communication and referral pathways," said Karen McCabe, director of Community Programs Development at Scripps Mercy Hospital and chair of the committee. "It will also provide an opportunity to align best practices among health, social service and housing providers that benefit the unsheltered population that we mutually serve."


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According to the task force, COVID-19 has further magnified the link between health and homeless systems, due to the impact of the virus on people who are homeless and the necessity to adjust how services are delivered. Health care systems and payors have become increasingly involved in the delivery of services to people who are homeless.

In addition, partnerships between homeless service providers and health care entities and payors have strengthened substantially over the past several years, particularly through Whole Person Wellness and Health Homes.