ATLANTA—The Atlanta Regional Collaborative for Health Improvement (ARCHI) hosted a community conversation on March 11 to discuss new research showing the links between homelessness and health inequities in Atlanta.
A panel discussion led by Regina Cannon, chief equity and impact officer at C4 Innovations, included experts on health disparities and homelessness. The panel focused on a study released by C4 Innovations and SPARC (Supporting Partnerships for Anti-Racist Communities) Atlanta that found that within Atlanta’s homeless population, black individuals are six times more likely than whites to repeatedly experience homelessness in the past three years and to be homeless for more than 12 months during this period.
Additionally, unmet health and behavioral health needs are a common pathway into homelessness. Respondents reported that serious or complex medical issues (e.g., debilitated injury, stroke) triggered a cycle of disability, leaving them unable to work or pay rent and unable to access needed treatment due to a lack of insurance. Untreated mental health and substance use issues were also commonly cited as a driver of homelessness and a barrier to exiting homelessness.
“The disproportionate number of people of color in the homeless population in Atlanta is a testament to the historic and persistent structural racism that exists,” said Cannon. “Ambitious and bold responses to the racial inequity in homelessness are needed to dismantle those structures and advance more equitable housing policies and programs.”
Given the prevalent role medical and mental health needs play, C4 Innovations, the Atlanta SPARC team and ARCHI called for innovative collaborations between the homelessness response system and the health care system to increase access to care.
“Collective responses to homelessness must address its root causes to shut the revolving door of housing instability and poor health outcomes,” said ARCHI executive director Kathryn Lawler. “ARCHI will provide active support to its partners as they collaborate with other systems—including criminal justice, child welfare, foster care, education, behavioral health and health care—to create lasting change.”
Read the full SPARC study here.
ARCHI is a coalition of public, private and nonprofit organizations committed to a 28-year plan for improving the Atlanta region’s health that is housed in the Georgia Health Policy Center at Georgia State University. View upcoming community meetings here.