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Prescribing New Solutions To Homelessness47:12

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With guest host Jane Clayson.

A radical proposal from Hawaii: Let doctors prescribe housing to cure homelessness. We’ll hear the case from Honolulu.

People camp out on a sidewalk in the Kakaako neighborhood of Honolulu. A Hawaii lawmaker wants to classify homelessness as a medical condition so that people could use Medicaid money for rent payments. (Audrey McAvoy/AP)
People camp out on a sidewalk in the Kakaako neighborhood of Honolulu. A Hawaii lawmaker wants to classify homelessness as a medical condition so that people could use Medicaid money for rent payments. (Audrey McAvoy/AP)

Homelessness is a big problem in America. Especially in states like Hawaii, which has the highest rate of homelessness in the country. One Hawaii lawmaker has a radical solution: treat homelessness like a medical condition, and let doctors prescribe state-provided homes as treatment. Is this the best way to “cure” homelessness? And can it work across the country? This hour On Point, tackling homelessness—the Hawaiian way.

Guests

Liz Barney, freelance writer and journalist based in Hawaii. (@itslizbarney)

Sen. Josh Green (D-HI), Hawaii State Senator and emergency room physician. (@SenJoshGreen)

Shiwani Johnson, legal assistant at a law firm in Honolulu. She proposed this show using the Hearken module as part of our 2017 National Listening Tour. (@smahealanij)

Steve Berg, vice president of policy and programs at the National Alliance to End Homelessness. (@sberg0)

From The Reading List

The Guardian: Doctors could prescribe houses to the homeless under radical Hawaii bill -- "Research suggests that healthcare spending for those who have been homeless for long periods and struggle with mental illness and addictions falls by 43% after they have been housed and provided with supportive services. Green said many of the individuals he hopes to house cost the healthcare system an average of $120,000 annually, yet the annual cost to house an individual is $18,000. He thinks that the total savings to the state could be hundreds of millions of dollars a year."

Honolulu Star-Advertiser: City Council considers expanding ‘sit-lie’ ban areas — "A new bill before the Honolulu City Council would expand the city’s law banning people from sitting and lying down on certain public sidewalks to parts of Kalihi and Iwilei. Bill 13, introduced by Councilman Joey Manahan, proposes a new enforcement zone in Kalihi, which would be bordered by Dillingham Boulevard and Kohou, North King, Winant, Kaiwiula and McNeill streets. The bill also would include other segments along Dillingham Boulevard, and Kaumualii and North King streets."

New York Times: Homeless Find a Champion in Canada’s Medicine Hat — "Medicine Hat is on the leading edge of a countrywide effort to end homelessness through the 'housing first' strategy, developed nearly 25 years ago by a Canadian in New York by which anyone identified as homeless is offered a home without preconditions for sobriety and other self-improvement that keep many people on the street elsewhere."

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This program aired on March 9, 2017.

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