How Community Health Centers Helped Britney Regain Housing—and Why Congress Needs to Act Now

This guest post is written by Regina Reed, Policy Organizer at the National Health Care for the Homeless Council.

Britney has an infectious smile, and you can feel the hope that’s bubbling inside her. Even when she and her four-year-old son Mason were bouncing around between different family members’ homes, and later living in a shelter, Britney remained optimistic. “I didn’t know how long it would take,” she said. “But I knew eventually I would be back in my own home again.”

Two years ago, Britney was laid off from the mortgage company where she worked. She and Mason were evicted from their apartment and moved to North Carolina to stay with numerous family members before she decided to move back to Baltimore and into the shelter at Baltimore Outreach Services. She says life in a shelter is hard, especially with a young child, and the strict schedules and many different personalities all together in one room.

When Health Care for the Homeless family nurse practitioner Amber Richert first came to the shelter to do outreach, Britney was focused solely on the well-being of her son Mason. Eventually, though, she felt comfortable enough with the nurse to begin seeing her for her own health care needs.

The health care Britney received for her son was a bridge to getting care for herself—and it eventually connected her with the resources she needed to move back into housing. In addition to simply providing medical services, health care professionals often develop the trust that’s needed to help people overcome the barriers to regaining housing.

After three months at the shelter, Britney and Mason were connected to housing services and quickly found a place to call home.

Their apartment in Northwest Baltimore has a room just for Mason, and a park for him to play in just three blocks away. Mason is excelling in school and Britney has a fulltime job as an intake specialist at the Office of Child Support Enforcement.

The care that Britney and her son received from Health Care for the Homeless is part of a network of federally funded community health centers that serve people with very low incomes and those experiencing homelessness. Funding for these programs is currently at risk because Congress has not reauthorized the program, and reserve funding to keep Health Care for the Homeless centers open is quickly drying up around the country.

These targeted programs serve a vulnerable population and save taxpayer money by providing high-quality, integrated care that prevents emergency room visits and inpatient hospitalizations. When patients secure housing with the help of Health Care for the Homeless, clinicians and staff provide supportive services to help them retain their housing and prevent them from experiencing homelessness again. Without federal funding, jobs and patient care are at stake.

Kevin Lindamood, President and CEO of Health Care for the Homeless, Baltimore, says:

“We are already challenged to provide care to the most vulnerable, but without a guarantee of long-term funding, we will be forced to cut back on the very services that helped Britney and her son regain better health and stable housing. We will no longer be able to fund shelter outreach, substance abuse programs and other essential primary care services.”

February 6 is the National Day of Demonstration, a Red Alert for Community Health Centers. The demonstration is aimed at moving Congress to fix the health center funding cliff as part of the next legislative vehicle, which must be passed by Thursday, February 8, 2018.

You can find updates on the status of the funding cliff, and easy tools for calling and emailing your members of Congress from the National Association of Community Health Centers here and action alerts with regular updates and talking points from the National Health Care for the Homeless Council here.