It is well known that the most significant social determinant of health is safe, affordable housing. With several thousand men, women and children in Milwaukee County considered homeless or ‘precariously housed,’ Milwaukee’s four health systems – Advocate Aurora Health, Ascension Wisconsin, Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert Health – came together through the Milwaukee Health Care Partnership to create a housing navigation program to help their homeless patients, especially those with complex medical and behavioral health needs, secure sustainable housing and supportive services.
The health systems’ Housing is Health initiative works in collaboration with the Milwaukee County Housing Division (MCHD) to refer homeless patients receiving care in ER, inpatient and select outpatient settings. The initiative incorporates MCHD social workers or “navigators,” who help patients secure temporary housing, provide case management, and aid in their ultimate transition to permanent housing stability. The program also helps patients secure supportive services such as public benefits, mental health / AODA treatment, tenancy education, and employment counseling. MCHD navigators work with each patient from the time of contact until the individual is considered ‘housing stable,’ a process which can extend over many months.
In addition to shared funding from the health systems, the Housing is Health initiative has attracted funding from the Green Bay Packers Foundation and the Greater Milwaukee Business Foundation on Health. Their support has helped cover additional costs such as rent, furniture and utilities for patients in the program. So far in 2020, 41 individuals who were referred into the program now are in permanent housing.