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Caring Chronicles: Hope Has A Home

Our new ‘Hope Has A Home’ program is working to alleviate homelessness in DC

Michael Hawkins, one of our Hope Has A Home clients, smiles for the camera.

On any given night in the District of Columbia, there are nearly 7,000 people who are homeless and without shelter. Homelessness increases the risk for serious illnesses. When DC’s homeless experience chronic substance use disorders, mental illness, HIV/AIDS and other chronic health conditions, they are five times more likely to end up in a hospital emergency room. Because they have no where else to go, they often remain hospitalized longer than necessary at a cost of approximately $3,000 per night.

We have been working to both alleviate homelessness and reduce costs on the health care system in the District using a relatively new model of care known as Medical Respite. Medical Respite is a care strategy that provides short-term medical care in a safe and supported environment for individuals with conditions that are not severe enough to warrant hospitalization and where return to a shelter or the streets would impede the recovery process.

Using this approach, we launched our ‘Hope Has A Home’ program in partnership with AmeriHealth Caritas in October 2019. This innovative program provides temporary housing, behavioral health and social support services for homeless individuals. Located at Edson Place NE and Congress Street NE in DC, Hope Has A Home is designed to improve the health status of those in need while simultaneously reducing the total health care spending for the participating Medicaid population.

“We are very fortunate to provide services and address the unmet need for respite care with this program. Despite the growing use of medical respite nationwide, Washington, DC has fewer than 50 designated medical respite beds for a homeless population of over 7,000.”
– Jana Berhow, VP of DC Programs

Thanks to Hope Has A Home, we have already begun to make a substantial impact on the lives of those in need like Michael Hawkins.

“I want to thank Volunteers of America and the Medical Respite program in particular for giving me the opportunity to get control of my life again and to help me with my housing, my health and my stability. Not sure where I would be without them.”
- Michael Hawkins, Hope Has A Home client