Housing is Health: Why Housing Stability in Idaho Matters to Our Communities

Housing is Health: Why Housing Stability in Idaho Matters to Our Communities

One of the greatest impacts on our health is our housing. Often, when people think about how housing affects their health, they think about issues like air quality, mold, pests, and the safety of their home and surrounding environment. While these are certainly important, what about the stress of housing insecurity?

In Jesse Tree, As a homeless prevention agency serving families in Ada and Canyon Counties, health issues are one of the most common reasons our clients fall behind on their rent. Unexpected medical procedures, workplace injuries, sick children, or complex health issues are all situations we see on a regular basis.

Recognizing the interconnectedness of housing and health, our Community Health Program implemented a brief screening in July 2023 to examine the health issues and barriers our clients face and determine how we can best serve them Supported methods. Through our process, case managers complete screenings with clients by asking questions about their physical and emotional well-being, including resource insecurities.

By compiling this data, we can better understand larger trends and disparities in community health care.

Some trends in our health screeners are worth paying attention to.

Based on data collected between October and December 2023, 42.37% of our clients stated that they had visited the emergency department within the past three months, and 22.03% stated that they had visited the emergency department multiple times during that time period. Frequent emergency department visits are often related to lack of access to adequate health care, whether due to transportation barriers, lack of funding, or lack of an established relationship with a primary care provider.

Nationwide, about 42% of people use emergency rooms in a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, our filters indicate that Jesse Tree clients in our community have been admitted to the emergency room in the past three months at the same rate, but for a much shorter period of time.

Additionally, 46.02% of clients stated that they always or often struggle with mental health symptoms such as isolation/loneliness, fatigue, and stress.

Whether someone has recently received a three-day notice to pay or vacate, or is in eviction court, participating in any step of the legal eviction process can often be daunting and anxiety-provoking. People who are already experiencing psychiatric symptoms may find this process particularly challenging.

In a study of individuals who appeared in deportation court, numerous mental health effects were found: 39% of participants screened positive for generalized anxiety disorder, 37% had post-traumatic stress disorder, and 33% of participants suffered from major depression, and 17% reported suicidal ideation. One study found that despite such significant reporting of mental health problems, less than 25% of participants received any mental health services during a 9-month follow-up period.

Additionally, researchers found that evicted adults had higher rates of mental health hospitalizations and suicide deaths. In Ada County, 57% more evictions were filed in court in 2023 than in 2022; in 2022, there were 805 filings, compared with 1,399 filings in 2023. The correlation between health and housing insecurity is critical, especially given the number of people in our community affected by the eviction process.

When affordable housing is scarce and tenants have to spend a significant portion of their income just on rent, what happens to their other basic needs?

Quality food, transportation, hygiene products and clothing are often sacrificed. Further, visiting a primary care provider or mental health professional becomes more difficult as the out-of-pocket costs and lost wages of attending appointments become unaffordable.

In 2023, Idaho experienced a massive disenrollment of Medicaid. The reality we see is that our clients are often uninsured or unable to afford basic medical care. These data show that our neighbors and their physical and mental health are struggling.

Now is the time for us as a community and nation to focus on the negative health impacts of housing insecurity and invest in solving this problem.

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