Main Goals of Research Activities at the National HCH Council

  • Increase understanding of homeless health care. National HCH Council staff work in collaboration with homeless health care projects, academic institutions, and national homeless or health care organizations to generate new information that will improve our understanding of homeless clinical issues, health care access, delivery systems, and program effectiveness.
  • Utilize existing research to inform clinical practice and public policy. National HCH Council staff compile existing research data of particular relevance to HCH practice and policy, and work with others in the field to identify implications for practice and policy.
  • Enhance the ability of HCH projects to engage in research/evaluation to improve practice and policy. National HCH Council staff serve as a resource to the Bureau of Primary Health Care/HCH Branch and others involved in research endeavors relevant to HCH practice through informal consultation, involvement in workgroups, and implementation of specific program evaluation activities.

Please use the sidebar on the right to explore our resources, such as publications, bibliographies, information on current research activities of the National HCH Council and details about the HCH Practice-Based Research Network.

Health Care for the Homeless Practice-Based Research Network

The Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) Practice-Based Research Network (PBRN) focuses on research that is conducted in clinical settings to explore issues affecting the primary health care needs of individuals experiencing homelessness. Members of the PBRN collaborate with the Research Committee to develop and coordinate research projects of particular relevance to homeless health care practice. Once a research proposal is approved by the Research Committee, PBRN members are invited to participate. Click here for more details about how to join the PBRN or propose a research study.



Photo source: Research symposium at the 2010 National Health Care for the Homeless Conference & Policy Symposium in San Francisco, CA.


Transitioning Patients from the Emergency Department to Primary Care Utilizing Community Health Workers

The National Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) Council received a CMMI Health Care Innovation Award in June 2012. The project seeks to address the over-reliance of persons experiencing homelessness on emergency department services. Such over-reliance has resulted in inflated Medicare, Medicaid, and uncompensated care costs while failing to link underserved patients with primary care services.

To refer these populations to appropriate primary care settings, this project employees Community Health Workers (CHWs) to target patients experiencing homelessness who frequently utilize emergency departments and other hospital settings for primary care services, regardless of insurance status. This project seeks to accomplish the triple aim of CMS through CHW interventions to transition care of homeless persons from inappropriate hospital utilization to HCH primary care sites funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The National HCH Council has partnered with 12 HCH sites to accomplish this goal.

The project period ends June 2015, at which point data will be available regarding intervention impact on the health and quality of life of enrolled patients, as well as change in emergency department utilization.

Participating Sites

  • Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program | Boston, MA
  • Care Alliance Health Center | Cleveland, OH
  • Catholic Medical Center – HCH Program | Manchester, NH
  • Charles Drew Health Center | Omaha, NE
  • Duffy Health Center | Hyannis, MA
  • Harbor Homes, Inc. | Nashua, NH
  • Health Care for the Homeless – Houston | Houston, TX
  • Heartland Health Alliance | Chicago, IL
  • John Wesley Community Health (JWCH) Institute | Los Angeles, CA
  • Lincoln Community Health Center | Durham, NC
  • Northeast Valley Health Care | San Fernando, CA
  • Santa Clara Valley Health | San Jose, CA

Community Health Workers and National HCH Council staff involved in the CMMI project at a training in Nashville, TN (2012).

Community Health Workers and National HCH Council staff involved in the CMMI project at a training in Nashville, TN (2012).

Practice-Based Research Network


pbrn-logoIn 2007, the Research Committee of the National Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) Council and HCH Clinicians’ Network created the nationally-focused HCH Practice-Based Research Network (PBRN). A PBRN is a group of ambulatory practices devoted principally to the primary care of patients, affiliated with each other (and often with an academic or professional organization) in order to investigate questions related to community-based practice. This unique collaboration between HCH clinics across the country specifically focuses on the primary health care needs of people experiencing homelessness. The mission of the HCH PBRN is to facilitate improvement of health care practice and policy for homeless individuals and families through effective use of research.

Typically, PBRNs draw on the experience and HCH PBRN AHRQ Certificate 2015insight of practicing clinicians to identify and frame research questions whose answers can improve the practice of primary care. By linking these questions with rigorous research methods, the PBRN can produce research findings that are immediately relevant to the clinician and, in theory, more easily assimilated into everyday practice.

*The HCH PBRN is a member of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality PBRN Resource Center.


Structure and Project Development

There are currently 62 organizations across the US involved in the HCH PBRN, which is mostly composed of a subset of the more than 250 federally-funded Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) grantees, and their subcontractors dispersed throughout the United States, and Medical Respite Care Programs. Health services are provided through a variety of entities, including community and migrant health centers, departments of public health, hospitals and free-standing non-profit organizations, and in a variety of locations, including permanent clinics, shelters/drop in centers, mobile vans, and on the streets.

The National HCH Council Research Committee (RC), whose membership includes seasoned researchers, HCH PBRN representatives, clinicians, respite care providers, and consumers, reviews proposed projects for their academic soundness, relevance to the field, and feasibility for the HCH setting. If a project is approved by the RC, members of the HCH PBRN will receive an invitation to participate in the study.

Dr. Barbara Wismer

The Director of the HCH PBRN is Dr. Barbara Wismer, Physician of Internal and Preventive Medicine for the Tom Waddell Urban Health Clinic in San Francisco, California. Wismer has worked with homeless people for over 17 years, both as a clinician and an administrator. Prior to her role at the Tom Waddell, Barbara did community-based prevention research at UC Berkeley’s Center for Family and Community Health.


Join the HCH PBRN

Any HCH grantee, medical respite care program, or Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) program may join the PBRN at any time. By becoming a member of this HCH PBRN, you are not obligating your program to participate in any proposed research study. You are only acknowledging that you would like to receive notification of opportunities to participate in research projects. You will also be informed about any funding opportunities targeted for PBRNs, in case you are interested in collaborating with a researcher in your area to submit a research proposal involving the HCH PBRN.

Please contact Alaina Boyer by phone at (615) 226-2292 or email if you are interested in joining this network, have research ideas, or have any questions.


Conducting Research with the HCH Practice-Based Research Network

If you would like propose a research project in collaboration with the HCH Practice-Based Research Network, please complete the PBRN Proposal Formand submit it to


Map of Current Members

PBRN Map_20150211

View HCH PBRN Members in a larger map

This website is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $1,625,741 with 20 percent financed with non-governmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit

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