News & Media

Homelessness, Hospitals and Real Estate Go Together

Hospitals are buying more real estate and turning it into low-income housing because they can’t free up beds by discharging homeless patients who have no place to go.

NEW YORK – Hospitals are becoming bigger buyers of real estate in a large-scale effort to help alleviate the homeless crisis plaguing many areas across the country. After some patients receive treatment, they have nowhere to go.

Insurance will not pay for patients to stay after their immediate needs have been treated, but hospitals struggle to release patients who have nowhere to go – and the ones that allow patients to stay are finding they don’t have enough beds for other patients.

“We could be receiving revenue from a patient who needs hospitalization, but instead we’re covering the cost of that patient occupying a bed,” says Peg Burnette, chief financial officer at Denver Health, to FOX News.

In one effort, Denver Health partnered with the Denver Housing Authority to renovate an unused building on its hospital campus. It will offer low-income senior housing, and one floor will also be leased back to the hospital to offer extra beds for transitioning homeless patients. Permanent housing will then be coordinated.

The hospital says that providing transitional housing will help the hospital save money in the end. The average stay for a patient at Denver Health is $2,700 a day; some patients have overstayed without payment by more than 12 to even 1,500 days, which has proven costly for the hospital.

University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences Systems has a pilot program starting this year with 26 patients and hopes to eventually house 75 patients, also to address housing aftercare.

“Homelessness tends to be invisible in health care,” says Stephen Brown, director of preventive emergency medicine at University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago. In records dating back to the late 1990s, the hospital discovered about 10,000 patients believed to be homeless who had channeled through its care over the years.

“We’re just a hospital and we’re a player in this,” Brown says. “But it really requires a cross-sector approach to solving this really kind of wicked problem in society.”

Source: “Hospitals Across U.S. Investing in Real Estate to Help With Homelessness, Mental Health,” FOX News (Dec. 28, 2019)

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