Last week in San Antonio, more than 100 volunteers participated in the San Antonio Registry Week. The group is a local partnership with the 100,000 Homes Campaign and works in conjunction with Got Your 6. They surveyed 441 homeless individuals, creating a name and photo-detailed registry of the people.
What they discovered was that more than 40% of the homeless were medically vulnerable and were at a greater risk of death. The scarier discovery was that the volunteers determined that in that ‘at-risk’ group, more than 50% of them were homeless veterans!
Due to the discovery, two of the individuals have been moved into permanent housing. Organizers have also ascertained housing resources for at least another 100 or more. This number included many veterans.
These local registry week efforts are part of a national commitment from the 100,000 Homes Campaign to Got Your 6 to house 20,000 chronically homeless veterans by July 2014. Over 15,000 veterans have been housed thus far.
“Registry Week has been an overwhelming success,” said local Campaign coordinator Rachel Cavazos, Director of Community Initiatives for the Housing Authority of Bexar County. “This level of collaboration among service providers, businesses, government officials and local volunteers feels new. It’s a huge testament to the determination of so many who work with our homeless neighbors. I’ve never been so hopeful that we can end homelessness in San Antonio.”
The survey utilized was the Vulnerability Index, a 34-item questionnaire developed by the 100,000 Homes Campaign. The volunteer teams captured data on health status, institutional history (jail, prison, hospital, and military), length of homelessness, patterns of shelter or mission use, and previous housing situations. Then, in the coming months, local housing and service providers will utilize this data in order to identify the most vulnerable members of the region’s homeless population. They will even be able to prioritize them for permanent housing. This housing-based approach is a proven strategy for ending homelessness, and exhaustive studies confirm that it saves taxpayers significant money when considering the costs with leaving the homeless on the streets.
The Vulnerability Index was developed by research by Dr. Jim O’Connell of Harvard University. The survey demonstrates that certain medical conditions tend to place homeless individuals at much higher risk of death than other members of the general population that come face-to-face with identical ailments.
In San Antonio, 179 homeless individuals qualified as vulnerable by this standard. Of these, 31 are veterans, comprising over 50 percent of all homeless veterans surveyed. Among the total surveyed homeless population (441), 15 are over 65 years of age, 45 are under 25 years of age, 28 suffer from cancer, and 146 reported being the victim of a violent attack since becoming homeless. Local homeless residents have spent an average of 3.7 years on the street. Among those listed as medically vulnerable, that number jumps to 5.75 years.
“San Antonio’s results are startling, but they’re not unusual,” said Becky Kanis, Director of the 100,000 Homes Campaign. “We have a long tradition in this country of managing homelessness instead of ending it. This event is a first step toward creating a new future in which a lifetime of homelessness doesn’t have to happen to people anymore, but we have to get serious about permanent housing.”
“I’m proud to support this effort, especially because it offers hope to so many of our veterans,” said Alfred A. Valenzuela, Haven for Hope board member and Army combat veteran, and a board member of Haven for Hope. “As a retired General born and raised in this military city, I have a long love affair with both the military and this community. The joining of forces between the military and the community offers a tremendous bridge toward helping our veterans make contributions to San Antonio and vice-versa. No American should ever wear the uniform of this country and return home to a life on the streets.”
The detailed breakdown of all demographic data compiled over the course of San Antonio Registry Week consisted of:
KEY REGISTRY DATA POINTS:
· 441 individuals experiencing street homelessness were identified and surveyed in San Antonio, including campsites.
· 179 (40.5%) were found to have health conditions associated with a high mortality risk.
· More than 100 community volunteers helped administer the surveys.
At-Risk ER or Hospitalized Over 3X
At-Risk ER over 3X
At-Risk Age Over 60
At-Risk Liver Disease
At-Risk Kidney Disease
At-Risk Cold/Wet Weather Injury
· 28 (6.34%) report a current cancer diagnosis.
· 87 (19.7%) are over 55 years old. Average age for all surveyed is 44.5 years.
· The oldest respondent was 90 years old.
· The longest reported length of homelessness was 36 years.
Number of Years Homeless
· The average years homeless for the vulnerable population is 5.75 years.
· The average years homeless for the Non-Vulnerable population is 2.4 years.
· 145 (33%) people reported a dual diagnosis of mental illness and substance abuse.
· 282 (64%) people reported a history of substance abuse.
· 202 (45.8%) of respondents report at least one mental health issue.
Veterans 60 (14%) surveyed were Veterans.
· 40 (67%) were honorably discharged.
· 31 (51.7%) Veterans met criteria for “Vulnerable.”
Youth & Foster Care
· 61 (13.8%) respondents report having a history of foster care.
· 45 (10.2%) respondents were under 25 years old.
· The youngest respondent was 18 years old.
· A total of 416 inpatient hospitalizations were reported in the past year at an average annual cost of $608,192. This assumes 1 day per hospitalization at cost of $1,462 per day (Kaiser Fam, 2010).
Emergency Room Visits
· A total of 579 ER visits were reported by all respondents in the last 3 months for an annual cost of $1,158,000. This assumes $500 cost per ER visit.
Health System Impacts
· 246 (55.7%) report having no form of health insurance whatsoever.
· In the last year, 235 of those surveyed accrued estimated healthcare costs of $1,766,192 in taxpayer-funded emergency and inpatient medical care.
· 146 (33%) report being a victim of a violent attack since becoming homeless.
Stay tuned as 100,000 Homes and Got Your 6 continues their efforts in your neighborhood. They will not stop until they reach their goal of housing 20,000 chronically homeless veterans by July 2014. After which they will establish a new goal.