Homelessness in New York City has reached record levels not seen since the Great Depression. More than 63,000 people are in New York City shelters every day. About a third of them are children.
The leading cause of homelessness is the lack of affordable housing. Americans spend close to half of their income on housing, leaving them with less money for food, clothing, and health care.
Housing is health care. Poor health is both a cause and a result of homelessness. Lack of access to health care often results in homelessness, with many forced to choose between paying for housing or medical bills. According to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, half of all personal bankruptcies in the United States are caused by health problems.
Being homeless starts a dangerous downward spiral. Homeless people are three to six times more likely than housed people to become ill (National Health Care for the Homeless Council). They face a broad range of acute and chronic illnesses–both physical and mental–as well as an increased possibility of trauma, such as a physical assault or rape.
Minor health problems can turn into serious illnesses when people don’t have access to routine medical treatment or a consistent place to live. Common conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and asthma become worse because there is no safe place to store medications properly. Behavioral health issues such as depression or alcoholism often develop or worsen.
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, homelessness and HIV/AIDS are also related. The conditions of being homeless increase the risk of contracting HIV. Since HIV targets the immune system, homeless people don’t always have the ability to fight off diseases, and their risk of HIV and associated illnesses is even higher.
Health Care Access for People Experiencing Homelessness
People experiencing homelessness in New York City, regardless of their HIV status, may be eligible for Amida Care’s Medicaid Managed Care Special Needs Health Plan (SNP), Live Life Plus.
Amida Care was established as a nonprofit organization in 2003 by several New York City community health organizations that recognized the importance of providing a coordinated model of care to people living with HIV/AIDS. In 2014, people experiencing homelessness, regardless of HIV status, became eligible to enroll in the health plan, which is specifically designed to engage vulnerable individuals in care and provide integrated social support services.
The Amida Care team works closely with numerous community organizations and state agencies to help thousands of New Yorkers get the individualized attention and support they need, including vital health and social services.
Amida Care can help. Amida Care is a Special Needs Health Plan (SNP) that provides comprehensive health coverage, at little or no cost, for Medicaid-eligible New Yorkers who qualify for our plan. Confidential answers are available at 1-855-GO-AMIDA (1-855-462-6432, TTY 711).