God bless the child that’s got her own. By most accounts “having our own” is a plan that we all have which reflects our own version of "living our best lives". On a basic level, having our own place to live is a given for most of us, at least that’s what I thought until I learned that over 550,000 Americans are homeless; a staggering statistic and it’s even more devastating when you discover how close homelessness comes and how quickly it can impact you and your community.
When I really began to explore the topic of homelessness, I was surprised to discover that a typical homeless family is comprised of a single mother with her two young children. I learned that family homelessness is growing; it's a growing social problem that's affecting families in every state. In fact, nationwide providers are seeing an increase in homelessness by 85% and it has a lot to do with issues like: affordable housing, underemplyment, domestic violence, mental health, and drug addiction.
While the U.S. economy continues to grow, that doesn’t mean all Americans are doing well. In fact, According to GOBankingRates, the cost of living in America has climbed 14 percent over the past three years, and it’s gotten tougher for many people to afford basic necessities. In the latest episode of the Superpowher podcast , I spoke with Dr. Dora Barilla, the Group Vice President, Community Health Investments with Providence St. Joseph Health where she oversees community benefit activities across the health system. Dr. Barilla has been very instrumental with highlighting and partnering around housing and health being a human right. Even more, in her role at Providence St. Joseph Hospital, whose mission is to serve the poor and the vulnerable, she’s helping to lead their healthcare system into really looking at this new crisis of housing and stability in our country. They’ve coined the term #housingishealth and are leaning in and thinking about their role as a health system very differently to solve this public health crisis.
Dr. Barilla points out how due to the housing burden for most metropolitan cities, people just can't afford to pay the high rent; as a result of not having a livable wage. Further, she says, “You're looking at a lot of mental health, substance use issues, youth that have been in foster care that are transitioning out, domestic violence or veterans coming back from war… this is really impacting all of us, and we really must begin to face this collectively. This isn't those people. This is us as a country, as a community. Living on the streets is not only hard for the individual that's experiencing that, but as a community, as a whole, if you think about, not having access to services and the exposure of weather elements, infectious disease, this is really a crisis that we have got to address collectively and not push people away. To see a child living on the streets or living in the car that is not okay. So we really need to wrap our arms around this problem. This is one of those moments in history when we cannot look the other way."
To learn more about the public health crises of homelessness and the solutions that Dr. Barilla shares about what Providence St. Joseph’s is doing, and how we can get involved, LISTEN HERE for the full podcast.