New Programs Provide Respite for Homeless with Serious Medical Issues, Reduce Financial Stress on Health Care System


Eugene, Ore. — Two new programs designed to meet the health needs of homeless individuals are part of a pilot project involving Eugene/Springfield-based nonprofit organization ShelterCare and PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center. The pilot projects focus on homeless individuals who are ready to be released from acute treatment at the hospital, but require additional assistance to fully recover and stabilize in more permanent housing.

“For many uninsured or under-insured people who are homeless, the emergency room is their primary care provider,” said Dan Reece, PeaceHealth program manager for networks of care. “For these individuals, struggling to nurse major medical issues – such as recovery from surgery, a broken limb or an open wound – can lead to additional complications, expensive readmission and ultimately even prove life-threatening.” 

ShelterCare’s 30-Day Homeless Medical Respite Program and the six-month Extended Medical Respite Program offer stable housing, the support of a community health worker and long-term planning assistance for larger life issues. Such services should help to reduce recovery times and prevent costly re-hospitalization while helping program participants regain stability and find permanent housing.

The programs are projected to produce net health care cost savings of more than 34 percent per year by reducing hospital lengths of stay, readmissions and Emergency Department visits. The 30-day respite program, launched in October 2013, has already assisted 13 participants. 

“A community health worker provides medical care coordination to ensure that participants take the necessary steps to recover, such as continuing with prescribed medications, attending follow-up appointments and communicating with their medical providers,” said Sarah  Chapman, ShelterCare’s program manager for the Family Housing Program. “Simultaneously, a ShelterCare case manager provides in-house support to connect participants with resources to help them regain stability—such as permanent housing, financial literacy education, rental etiquette training, employment opportunities and transportation options.”

In a similar pilot program in St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minn., 86 percent of participants were discharged from the program into stable housing situations.

“Currently, too many homeless people with serious medical issues are not getting the level of care they need to recover and get on track to permanent housing,” Chapman said. “The medical respite programs are innovative because they improve health outcomes while lowering the overall cost of care, all while helping homeless people find safe housing and gain the skills they need to remain stable and healthy. It creates a ‘win-win-win’ for the homeless, the health care system and the community.” 

About PeaceHealth 
PeaceHealth, based in Vancouver, Wash., is a not-for-profit Catholic health system offering care to communities in Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. PeaceHealth has approximately 16,000 caregivers, a multi-specialty medical group practice with more than 800 physicians and providers, a comprehensive laboratory system, and nine medical centers serving both urban and rural communities throughout the Northwest. In 1890, Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace founded what has become PeaceHealth. Today, PeaceHealth is the legacy of its founding Sisters and continues to serve communities when invited to do so with a spirit of collaboration and stewardship. This is The Spirit of Healing—The Spirit of PeaceHealth.

About ShelterCare
ShelterCare has served the Eugene-Springfield community for 43 years. The organization offers housing with supportive services to families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and adults with a psychiatric disability or acquired brain injury. Last year, ShelterCare served more than 1,700 individuals in 12 different programs.