Rent, bills, food, education – it all adds up and may leave some families with tough financial decisions. The economic burden of costly housing alone may prevent families from meeting other basic needs, which impacts their health.
It is estimated that 14.5 million Americans currently lack access to stable housing. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission on Health, the shortage of affordable housing puts a limit on the choices where people can live, often leading to lower-income families living in unsafe, overcrowded neighborhoods with fewer resources for healthy outdoor and exercise activities.
UnitedHealthcare began its affordable housing initiative in 2011 in an effort to help remove social barriers and disparities. Since then, the company has invested more than $400 million to build 80 affordable-housing communities throughout 18 states across the United States. As a result, more than 4,500 new homes have been created for individuals and families in need, including seniors, military veterans, people living with disabilities and those struggling with homelessness.
“Access to safe and affordable housing is one of the greatest obstacles to better health, which is why UnitedHealthcare is helping redefine healthy living by addressing social determinants, like access to affordable housing, that affect people’s well-being and quality of life,” said Steve Nelson, CEO of UnitedHealthcare.
When people have access to affordable housing, it enables those individuals to be better equipped to pay for health care and nutritious food, which often leads to improved overall health outcomes.
Another element of these housing communities is that many of them incorporate wrap-around support with access to services like clinical health care, social and support counseling, job training, academic support, adult education classes, childcare, computer labs and playgrounds. It’s ultimately helping people improve their health and strengthening the communities in which they live.
“For the first time in two years, probably more, I feel at peace,” said Austin Poons, a veteran who served in the U.S. Army in the 1970s and now lives at Upper Veterans Post at Fort Snelling in Minnesota. “I am in a better place mentally and I love this place. Everything is so convenient – the Veterans Administration is a couple of blocks away and I have a park nearby. I feel like I am home for a long time.”
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