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Medical News & Perspectives
February 13, 2019

Hospitals Turn to Housing to Help Homeless Patients

JAMA. 2019;321(9):822-824. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.21476

A 3-year experiment in providing housing to frequent emergency department patients at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago has been so successful that in 2018, the hospital decided to double the housing program’s size. Now, it’s looking for ways to expand the program even further.

The Better Health Through Housing pilot project was launched in 2015 and initially provided housing for 25 patients with severe and chronic health problems. The hospital chipped in $1000 per month to house each patient, which was combined with federal housing subsidies to cover housing costs. The Chicago Center for Housing and Health, a local social services nonprofit, provided a case manager, health care coordination, and other support services to participants. Health care costs in the University of Illinois system for that initial cohort fell by 18% from about $5879 per month to about $4785 per month after entering the program, according to the program’s director Stephen Brown, MSW, LCSW, director of preventive emergency medicine at the hospital.