In Vermont, chronic homelessness is a widespread problem that significantly affects health outcomes and poses great danger in the cold winters. University of Vermont (UVM) Medical Center has responded to this problem by spending the past two years working to offer housing as a health care solution.

As detailed in a recent UVM Medical Center blog post, the hospital’s journey to reduce homelessness began after its 2013 community health needs assessment. Through this assessment, the hospital identified “affordable housing” as a priority for patients and community members and has since incorporated affordable housing into its $100 million community benefit portfolio.

For example, the hospital worked with local partners — including Champlain Housing Trust, Community Health Centers of Burlington, United Way, and Howard Center — to acquire a vacant motel and create Harbor Place. Now, homeless patients who have been discharged from the hospital have a temporary place to stay in the motel. Most important, as part of their tenancy at Harbor Place, individuals staying there can access case management provided by a coalition of community-based agencies and targeted at improving their social and health care needs,

To date, about 100 patients have been discharged to Harbor Place, and UVM Medical Center estimates it has saved about $1 million in care costs as a result. The hospital also has seen close to $500,000 in savings from its other initiative focused on permanent, affordable, supportive housing. That initiative, spurred by a 100,000 Home Campaign, has successfully housed 32 people with high health risks.

Most important, UVM Medical Center’s efforts to increase access to affordable housing has changed lives in the community. A video from the partnership tells the story of one man, John, who has worked to break out of homelessness with help from UVM Medical Center and its partners.