Housing Assistance Program Expands Outreach and Behavioral Health Services to West Side


GARFIELD PARK — Renaissance Social Services is creating an outreach and case management team dedicated to housing West Siders who are homeless and struggling with mental health issues.

The Outreach and Case Management team will expand Renaissance’s role in the Flexible Housing Pool, a partnership between local government agencies, hospitals and nonprofit organizations to provide safe and affordable housing for people who depend on emergency services.

The team will allow Renaissance to find people with behavioral health issues who often go through hospital emergency rooms and “meet them where they are” so they can access resources from the flexible housing pool. to “find them an apartment today,” Michael said. Banghard, executive director of Renaissance Social Services.

“The idea is to engage them whenever they show up. If they show up at the emergency room, if they show up at a shelter, they are engaged by our outreach programs,” Banghart said. “We will be able to engage with them in the hospital and hopefully get them into accommodation that day.”

Case management and behavioral health services are essential for those participating in the flexible housing pool, as homeless people are particularly vulnerable to physical and mental health issues, Banghart said. Homeless people also tend not to have access to primary and preventive care, so they end up relying on emergency treatment or forgoing treatment, Banghart said.

“The longer a person is homeless, the more likely they are to experience trauma, develop behavioral health symptoms, and the more likely they are to have poorer health outcomes. If they have a condition, it will get worse. It will become chronic,” Banghart said.

Housing costs are funded by the Flexible Housing Pool. And since the Renaissance-developed team will focus on people with behavioral health needs, case management and outreach services will be funded long-term by Medicaid.

An $80,000 grant from the Polk Bros. will cover start-up costs that will allow Renaissance to operate the program until they receive reimbursements from Medicaid to maintain expanded services.

More than half of Flexible Housing Pool participants have a behavioral health problem, according to program data. The additional behavioral health services will help families meet their needs beyond housing and prevent them from “returning to homelessness,” said Divya Mohan Little, program manager for Polk Bros. Foundation.

“Homeless people in Chicago with chronic physical and mental health conditions often move in and out of emergency rooms, nursing homes, and prisons…because homelessness is criminalized…and because we don’t have adequate behavioral health services,” Little said.

This approach can also reduce the hidden costs of housing insecurity and lack of affordable housing for society as a whole, Banghart said.

“The general public thinks they’re cheap because they live on the streets,” Banghart said. “In reality, because they don’t have access to primary health care, food security, and they don’t have a roof over their heads, they end up using the most expensive services on offer. by society instead of prevention.”

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