Housing is Health

Being bold enough to believe we can end homelessness

Mike Butler, president of operations and strategy

t2019HIHTotalhomelessUSHaving a safe place to live is something many of us take for granted. We go home with our minds on the commute, what we’ll have for dinner, and maybe our weekend to-do lists. But for more than half a million Americans, a home is everything they don’t have. Millions more people are in unstable housing situations. One in 10 U.S. households spend more than half their income on housing.

I live in Seattle, which has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the country, along with a very expensive housing market. I’ve been out on a Point in Time count and I found it to be both a learning experience and an eye opener. When I took a look at the best estimates we have for homelessness in the U.S., I realized that the seven western states served by Providence St. Joseph Health represent 36 percent, or 198,000 of the total 552,800 Americans who were homeless for at least a portion of 2018. The national estimated rate of homelessness is 17 per 10,000 people in any one state. We serve four states that far exceed this benchmark.

It’s been a startling call to action. I am committed to doing more, personally and professionally, to reduce homelessness not only in Seattle but in all the communities served by our health system. Call it bold, but my aspiration is that the public and private sectors can actually end this national public health crisis if we join together with a common vision and pool our resources and talent. And why not invite our compassionate workforces to join us?

Our Housing is Health website is meant to be a starting place. We are asking major employers, businesses and policymakers in the western U.S. to take a close look at this vexing issue by using the site as a resource. At Providence St. Joseph Health, our community assessments keep telling us that homelessness and inadequate housing are key needs in every community we serve. We are doing something about that, by investing in the best practices of our community partners working on temporary and permanent housing. We also provide safe, secure and permanent housing for more than 2,000 older adults or those with disabilities. 

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