July 27, 2020
The Star Tribune reports on how Minnesota is the first state to receive federal approval to offer housing, behavioral health, medical and other social support services through Medicaid to help thousands of people who are experiencing homelessness. The new Medicaid program provides long-term, stable funding to aid homeless individuals in searching and applying for housing, negotiating leases and ultimately preventing evictions by identifying tenant problems before they become crises. Prior to its approval, these services were paid by a patchwork of private, nonprofit and government sources. The Medicaid program hopes to be a pioneering model for other states in an effort to end homelessness.
Our CEO, Jill Wiedemann-West, and our street outreach worker, Tony Vang, spoke to the Star Tribune about this landmark initiative.
West discusses how our Housing First program, which provided supportive services to about 420 people since its launch in 2015, helps people transition to stable housing as case managers work with them over a longer period of time to avoid eviction. However, finding sustainable, long-term funding sources for the program has always proved difficult. Now with the Medicaid program, Wiedemann-West discusses her hopes that finally funding for these services will become more consistent.
“The reality is, nothing good can happen if you’re not in a safe environment that supports recovery and healing,” she said. “And being homeless doesn’t support any of that. You can’t just say, `Welcome to your house, here’s a set of sheets and some pots and pans and good luck to you. We have individuals suffering from trauma who have been living outside so long that they don’t have the basic skills necessary to manage day-to-day in a more closed, normal environment.”
The Star Tribune also shadowed Tony Vang in his outreach work to a hidden camp, which he has visited twice a week since the pandemic began to build trust with a small community of tent dwellers and to help them transition to housing. Most of Vang’s work includes getting people signed up for health and other social services so they can succeed once they move into their own apartment.
“Building trust is very, very important and takes time,” Vang said after visiting with people living at the camp. “People who don’t want services often have lost trust in the system.”