Breaking the Cycle of Homelessness For Our Emergency Department Patients
Each year, 26,396 individuals experiencing homelessness visit Alberta’s Emergency Rooms.
And how many of these people are housed after these visits? Zero.
This unmet need for care results in a number of serious issues. For patients, it means extremely poor outcomes and an enormous loss of dignity and respect. For the healthcare system, it demoralizes physicians, and carries a hefty financial cost.
"There's a lot of moral distress among healthcare providers having to discharge someone into homelessness. It's the worst feeling for doctors and nurses and social workers to say to a person, 'That's all we can do. And you're basically on your own.'” - Dr. Louis Francescutti, a Royal Alexandra Hospital emergency physician, University of Alberta School of Public Health professor, and one of the core team members leading the program.
On top of this, the current cost per year of treating one patient experiencing homelessness is approximately $115,000—43% higher than a typical patient.
The cycle of discharging patients into homelessness needs to be broken, and the process must be fixed. A bridge is needed.
HOW THE PROGRAM WILL HELP:
The Bridge Healing “Asamina Kochi” program (which translates from Cree into "to try again"), is working to solve these problems, with a surprisingly simple solution.
Instead of discharging Edmontonians experiencing homelessness back out into the world with little to no support—sometimes into temporary housing, but often to end up back in the Emergency Department—the program creates a bridge.
After visiting an emergency department such as the Royal Alex’s, these patients will receive immediate housing and many of the supports they need to find longer-term solutions—medical care, mental health support, social support, legal support, food security, harm reduction strategies, employment, and more.
Patients will be offered free transportation to a newly-built 12-suite building at the Jasper Place Wellness Centre (JPWC). Depending on their needs, they could stay for 30-60 days, where the JPWC would work with them to find affordable permanent housing, as well as health support, social support, short-term work opportunities, and other supports to help them get ready to move onward.
WHAT YOUR DONATION WILL SUPPORT:
Fortunately, the efforts of the team leading the Bridge Healing program, largely made up of social workers, emergency physicians, and compassionate community members, have proved fruitful:
As of May of this year, the City of Edmonton has recently agreed to fund one year of the pilot, supplying $290,000 to cover operational costs.
This will provide 12 suites of Bridge Healing House Units, or 144 clients, and is expected to launch this summer.
Our goal at the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation is to raise an additional $290,000 to support the building of a second new 12-suite Bridge Healing Housing Unit. This would effectively double the program’s capacity to assist those recently discharged patients experiencing homelessness—and double the number of second chances being given.
Your support is needed more than ever. According to a recent city report, the number of people experiencing homelessness in Edmonton has doubled since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic… and is expected to increase further.