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Are Medical Expenses Forcing Homelessness?: A Mother’s Choice

We learn early on that the human body is a truly remarkable, durable, resilient, and yet- fragile frame that carries us throughout our life. Our bodies allow us to hug, laugh, cry, dance, exercise, eat, learn, and grow. Sometimes, however, our bodies cannot effectively fight off illness or withstand accidents. As a result, we seek medical care, which comes at a high price… and in many cases, that price can be one’s home.

A former client, Kristen, came to our Espigh Family Shelter in need of help because of her daughter’s battle with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). The baby, named Chloe, developed RSV upon leaving the NICU as a newborn. Her condition was so severe that she was placed on life support for 22 days, while utilizing two breathing machines. Although Chloe received the appropriate care needed to beat the disease, Kristen was unable to move her baby back into the living environment that made her ill. Almost overnight, she was homeless and swimming in medical bills. With the support of our staff, and through our program, she was able to find an apartment. She and Chloe are now happy, healthy, and living on their own. (Kristen is photographed above with Chloe.)

These are the stories we hear all too often. Ultimately, we hope to educate the public on the various barriers our clients face as they seek safe and affordable housing. There are many families and individuals living on the streets, or in their cars, due to the cost of restoring their (or a family member’s) health.

In fact, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, people living in shelters are more than twice as likely to have a disability. This can also be seen in the veteran population living without a home. According to Homeward’s 9th summer Point-in-Time count, out of the 482 individuals who completed their survey- 22.7% identified themselves as Veterans, of which 41.9% suffer from a long-term disability.

Barriers to housing such as disability, mental illness, and financial difficulty due to medical expense are quite common. In 2014, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported a total of $3 trillion spent on health expenditures.

With the cost of medical care skyrocketing with each passing day, how can people manage unforeseen crises and maintain stable housing? We cannot ask people to choose between having a roof over their head and seeking medical help when a loved one is sick.

We will continue to work everyday to help those experiencing this.

If you would like to learn more about medial expenses nationwide, please visit: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/health-expenditures.htm.