The subject of homelessness has remained relatively unexplored by health reporters, despite evidence that housing has an enormous influence on health.
An alarming number of people, particularly older adults and those from marginalized communities, are on the precipice of losing their homes or have already fallen victim to this crisis. This trend is a significant contributing factor to burgeoning homelessness across the U.S.
Journalists play a vital role in addressing this issue by not only reporting on the problem of homelessness itself but by centering in their narratives the lived experiences of the people and communities directly impacted.
AHCJ’s fall summit, “Homelessness and Health Care,” is designed to help reporters tell these stories more effectively with the latest research, provide audiences with a deeper understanding of what it’s really like to experience homelessness, and facilitate new connections.
For more than a decade, California has had the largest homeless population in the U.S. As of 2022, a staggering 30% of all people in the U.S. experiencing homelessness were living in California, including half of all people who are unsheltered, as reported by the Public Policy Institute of California.
The summit’s keynote speaker is Margot Kushel, M.D., who led the landmark California Statewide Study on People Experiencing Homelessness — the largest representative study of homelessness in decades, which was released earlier this year. Kushel will talk about some of the deeper findings of the study and their implications for solutions.
Sacramento’s Mayor Darrell Steinberg, another featured speaker, will talk about the Mental Health Services Act — which he co-authored to create funding for mental health services in the state — and why billions raised by that measure and other policy changes have not removed all obstacles to solving the problem of too many people with mental illness living on the streets.
Mark Horvath, founder of the organization Invisible People, will talk about centering the experiences of people who are homeless in reporting on homelessness.
Among the other connections between homelessness and health that will be explored as part of the program are:
- The efforts of “street teams” addressing critical health needs and acting as bridges to sustained care.
- Reporting on homelessness with sensitivity, including how and when to apply trauma-informed strategies.
- Approaches to addressing the mental and behavioral health needs of those experiencing homelessness.
- Housing as a critical social determinant of health, what Houston did to get two-thirds of its homeless population into housing, and what goes into transitioning people into permanent housing.
The California Health Care Foundation is the host of the event. The Commonwealth Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation also have provided support for the summit.