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Shelter Health

No city in the United States has enough shelter beds for everyone who needs them. Consequently, communities work to increase the number and improve the quality of the shelter beds that are available. Providing medical and support services in shelters is a hallmark of the HCH model of care. Learn insights below.


NHCHC Resources

  • Shelter-Based Care for Homeless Populations | Healing Hands, Summer 2018 | This issue focuses on innovative shelter-based health care programs that provide low-barrier health care to people living in shelter settings, showing that reducing barriers to care not only leads to improvement in individuals’ health, but also to population health. This edition also examines the types of health care that can be provided in a shelter-based setting, as well as best practices and lessons learned for collaborating effectively with shelter staff and providing person-centered, trauma-informed health care in a shelter.
  • Making the Connection: Improving the Relationship Between Shelters and Health Centers | Archived Webinar, March 2018 | With a multitude of case management obligations, constant staff turnover, and an important emphasis on housing first – it can be difficult for emergency shelter staff to prioritize the health care of their clients. The National Health Care for the Homeless Council’s TennCare Shelter Enrollment Project has developed ways of reaching out to emergency shelters and bridging the gap between shelter and clinic for both staff and residents. From regional trainings to Medicaid enrollment – learn effective strategies to strengthen your relationship with those who provide direct service to the homeless community in your region.
  • Shelter Health: Opportunities for Health Care for the Homeless Projects (2016) | Health centers can play a key role in improving shelter health for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. In addition to screening and treating conditions that arise in the shelter setting, health centers can work with local shelters and public health departments to mitigate health risks by developing strategies to prevent, identify and resolve drivers of poor health. This issue brief identifies certain health issues that can be particularly affected by shelter conditions, identifies opportunities for health centers to be engaged in local efforts to improve shelter health, and describes environmental health services supported by the federal Health Center Program.
  • Shelter Health: Essentials of Care for People Living in Shelter (2006) | Serious health problems are common among homeless persons, and shelter settings may pose or exacerbate particular health risks for residents and service providers, as well as opportunities for important health care interventions. This guide has been designed for communities where providers of shelter and other services can come together, learn about and discuss the issues, and plan individual and collaborative solutions. The guide is not intended to be a step-by-step “how-to” manual for setting up shelter services, but rather aims to provide tools and support to help shelter providers respond more effectively to the health needs of residents.
  • Pandemic Influenza Guidance for Homeless Shelters & Homeless Service Providers (2009) | This practical manual is for homeless shelters and other service providers as they plan for and respond to the special needs of homeless individuals during the influenza season. Different facilities will need to tailor the guidance to meet the specific needs of their staff and the people they serve. The manual consolidates a number of materials developed by credible authorities.
  • Health in Shelters (2006) PowerPoint presentation by Bob Donovan, MD, Cincinnati Health Network, Inc. Focuses on communicable diseases and general prevention measures.


Additional Resources

  • Shelters and TB: What Staff Need to Know, Second Edition (2013) | The Curry International Tuberculosis Center is pleased to develop this video and viewer’s guide to help your shelter create a healthy and safe environment. This fundamental TB infection control information can help you and your staff prevent the spread of TB.
  • The Health Care of Homeless Persons: A Manual of Communicable Diseases & Common Problems in Shelters & on the Streets (2004) | A 384-page manual that describes serious health problems that commonly afflict homeless persons and discusses appropriate responses and treatment. The manual addresses communicable disease control and food handling in shelter settings, and current approaches to the management of chronic diseases. It includes convenient patient education materials in English and Spanish that can be easily reproduced and given to shelter guests and staff.

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