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Addressing Housing Security in New York

For months, Leah and her 19-year-old son were homeless on the streets of Long Island, living out of her broken down car. On top of this, Leah was struggling with a number of health issues, including heart disease, kidney failure (receiving dialysis three times a week), diabetes, glaucoma, cataracts and high blood pressure. Due to her health needs, she found herself in and out of the emergency room for several months.

That was until a representative from UnitedHealthcare noticed Leah’s repeated visits to the ER and reached out to her with help, both for housing and additional services to support her health.

Leah and her son were candidates for a housing pilot program to help connect people in need to quality housing and support services. Leah is now among the eight residents who are currently living in housing units throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties. She and her son live in a unit in North Merrick, and her health is steadily improving. She has access to care and her emergency room visits have declined.

On Nov. 13, a special event was held to announce the initiative and welcome the members to their new homes. UnitedHealthcare employees joined community leaders and project partners to distribute baskets filled with household items donated by the company to help welcome the residents.

Leah, who was in attendance at the event, expressed her gratitude.

“I cannot thank you all enough for the opportunity,” she said. “We went from living in our car to having a space of our own, and I am so grateful for that, for myself and my son.”

The housing program is funded by UnitedHealthcare and leased through Central Nassau Guidance and Counseling (CNG), a nonprofit which provides mental health, substance use disorder and residential services across Long Island.

UnitedHealthcare works closely with CNG to use internal data and a referral system to identify potential residents who are homeless and have had multiple emergency room and inpatient hospital stays. Once in the housing program, residents have access to free services including peer-support, psychiatric care, primary care providers and job development assistance. Additionally, members are able to receive public transportation or shared ride assistance.

“UnitedHealthcare is a well-being company, not just a health insurance company,” said Pat Celli, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of New York. “We are deeply invested in supporting people’s health and well-being and connecting them to needed health services.”

More than 18 million Americans lack access to stable housing today, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. Data shows those who are homeless are often in need of more health care, but when provided with stable housing, their health is managed more effectively.

“We are so glad to be able to collaborate with UnitedHealthcare to provide a vital service during a time of great need,” said Jeffrey Friedman, CEO of CNG. “It all starts with having a place to call home – and we have found that stabilizing a client’s housing and being able to connect them to other services is a critical factor in their recovery and overall health.”