Partners gather to celebrate Housing for Health
Photo: Camden Coalition’s Senior Care Coordinator Gladys Antelo
Over 100 people, including patients, providers, local, state and federal public officials, gathered at the Camden Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center on December 9 to celebrate the launch of the “Housing for Health” Housing First pilot program in South Jersey.
Housing for Health will connect 50 chronically ill, chronically homeless individuals to permanent supportive housing and is the first collaboration of its kind between the Camden Coalition, state and local government, and community partners.
“This is an innovative program that uses housing as the first step in addressing chronic health care problems among the homeless,” said New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney. “Homelessness is a curable condition. Once those without a place to live have a home, it is easier to address their health issues.”
“The ‘housing first’ system works,” said New Jersey Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald. “We have learned that it can have a 90 percent success rate when it comes to keeping people in housing, which has a direct impact on reducing health care costs in the community. That’s why we are committed to supporting the coalition with the tools needed to continue this effort.”
Recently housed patient Peter Bowser spoke to the assembled guests about his journey to supportive housing and better health. Bowser, who suffers from asthma and other chronic conditions, had been a frequent user of the local hospital system, with 18 emergency room visits and 15 hospital readmissions over a single year.
“My father always told me there ain’t nothing like your own home,” he told the assembly. “Now I’m right where I’m need to be.”
Funded by housing vouchers from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and the support of the Camden County Homeless Trust Fund, along with gifts from the Virtua Foundation and Cooper University Hospital, the scattered-site program provides permanent housing and supportive services without preconditions for homeless individuals in Camden who have been hospitalized at least twice in six months and have two or more chronic health conditions.
The Coalition and its member organizations, with technical assistance from the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), have collaborated to bring the program to South Jersey, levering a wide range of expertise and an unusual level of community-level coordination of services. South Jersey Behavioral Health Resources (SJBHR) provides wraparound health services, Volunteers of America-Delaware Valley (VOA) and St. Joseph Carpenter Society manage housing vouchers and landlord relations, and Oaks Integrated Care provides property management services.
Also participating in the launch were Dr. Jeffrey Brenner, Executive Director, Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, Carmen G. Rodriguez, Freeholder, Camden County, Charles A. Richman, Commissioner, NJ-Department of Community Affairs, and Jennifer Ho, Senior Advisor for Housing and Services, at HUD, who gave the keynote speech.
“Help us tell this story far and wide,” Ho implored the audience. “We need to tell the story that Housing First works and can end the epidemic of sick people living on the streets.”
In the news:
‘Housing First’ making changes for Camden County homeless
Allison Steele, Philadelphia Inquirer
Housing First pilot shows how it can improve health of NJ’s homeless
Andrew Kitchenman, NJSpotlight
New program will give housing to homeless with health conditions
Alex Young, NJ.com
Video: Fighting Homelessness by providing homes
Briana Vannozzi, NJTV News