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In the past, healthcare has spent thousands of dollars on treating the homeless, and often times the hospitals are never paid for these treatments. Homelessness affects an individuals health and severely decreases their life expectancy. Stephen Brown, Director of Preventive Emergency Medicine at University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences, Chicago, explains that homeless people are admitted to the hospital more than the average person and on a more consistent basis. Yet, following these treatments, the homeless are often sent back to the streets and forced to fend for themselves again.

However, some hospitals around the nation are beginning to acknowledge their role in helping homelessness. In light of this growing problem, bigger cities around the nation have started to provide housing to the homeless. But, they have replaced the traditional model that required people to be clean of their addiction before they were provided with housing with a much more efficient model that has already shown higher success rates. Shannon Nazworth, President and CEO of Ability Housing in Jacksonville, Florida, explains that the new “housing first” model takes people straight from the street and provides them with shelter, and then gives them access to resources that help them get back on their feet. She explains that they have the responsibility to pay rent, but the program helps the individuals access funds through benefits. The end goal of this program is to help the person work toward a financial position in which they are able to to move from program housing to different community housing.

Since “housing first” programs began, they have shown a significant increase in getting homeless individuals off the streets and keeping them off the streets. But, the programs have still faced backlash. Nazworth explains that due to stigmas associated with mental health and homelessness there have been misconceptions about the individuals that would be allowed in these programs. In order to change this, Nazworth states that the program allows people to come in and observe the housing to acquire more knowledge on it. By providing homeless individuals with the opportunity to receive housing and aid, many of them are capable of redeeming their health and eventually no longer rely on the programs for help anymore.


  • Stephen Brown, Director of Preventive Emergency Medicine at University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences, Chicago
  • Shannon Nazworth, President/CEO of Ability Housing, Jacksonville, Florida

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