Housing plan would promote health care for homeless people

In a recent study, the Wilder Foundation highlighted that while homelessness is down in Minnesota, homelessness in Ramsey County has increased. 
 
 
I take care of homeless patients as a hospital medicine provider at a local hospital. Recently, a homeless man was treated for frostbite that resulted in amputations of parts of both feet. Would frostbite have developed if he had a home? 
 
 
This same man is back in the hospital this week because of complications associated with his initial diagnosis. 
 
 
Homeless people have the right to have safe health care transitions that prevent unnecessary health care costs and promote long-term health benefits. 
 
 
Care transitions occur when people navigate through multiple parts of a health care system.  These can include clinics, hospitals and care centers. 
 
 
Homeless people often have difficulty navigating the multiple parts of a health care system because of their limited access to resources. Clinic and care center access for homeless individuals can be limited, and post-hospital care for homeless people is often limited to short-term stays in care centers. Thus, these people return to shelters to convalesce, or they’re readmitted to hospitals because of post-hospital discharge complications. 
 
 
Failed care transitions for the homeless are a symptom of limited health care access.  
 
 
Affordable housing in St. Paul is also limited. In 2013, more than 60 percent of the Twin Cities’ affordable housing was built in Minneapolis, not St. Paul. Furthermore, many charitable houses are only available for use by those who experience short-term homelessness. 
 
 
The Homes for All Act seeks the development of home ownership opportunities, the preservation of rental housing and the construction of supportive housing. However, it also specifically targets people over the age of 55. What about the man with frostbite, who was 52? Also, consider that a 2015 Wilder Research report found that people over the age of 55 are less likely to be homeless. 
 
 
Many cases of homelessness result from family breakdowns or economic hardship.
 
 
Thus, in order to promote the best chance of health, the state should consider permanent housing as a possible solution that improves successful health care transitions of homeless people, especially those under the age of 55.   
 
 
Demeka Kilgore
Minnesota Daily reader