Housing is Health - in conversation with Steven Maurice Clark MD, FACS

Steven Maurice Clark

The primary and essential function of housing, to provide a safe and sheltered space, is absolutely fundamental to people’s health and well-being.”

Most human rights models claim that they are universal, indivisible, and interrelated. Given this deep connection, we as a community are slowly recognizing that housing is healthcare, and the focus on both of these rights combined is crucial for ending homelessness and the healthcare concerns associated with the same.

We are in discussion with Steven Maurice Clark, a compassionate care provider, and healthcare advocate. Steven was recently elected as a member of the Baltimore Regional Housing Program Board and shares with us the importance of and correlation between housing and healthcare.

You were recently elected to be on the Baltimore Regional Housing Program Board. Housing and healthcare are extremely intertwined concepts — both can impact each other negatively and positively. With your healthcare expertise and knowledge on safe housing, tell us about this correlation.

“Homelessness and ill health have been locked in an ongoing cycle of cause and effect, constantly spiraling downward. Poor health puts one at risk for homelessness, and vice versa. Most US bankruptcies are caused due to health problems, and oftentimes such a situation leads to eviction, and hence homelessness. When we think about such phenomenon as a stat or number it is easy to overlook the reality of the situation. We live in a world where being diagnosed with a disease or facing grave injury — basically any kind of perturbation — leads to absolute disaster. It can push you to lose your life’s savings, and with no reserves you are forced into constantly moving, hence disrupting healthcare, schooling, and jobs of household members. So, in addition to being sick or injured, you are unable to pay medical bills, support your family, or pay for your children’s school — and you are also thrown out of the house you live in. Such dispossessed families often end up with family or friends, however, their living arrangements remain tenuous and break down particularly quickly.

“Further, homelessness is not the only issue; low-quality or unsafe housing is as dangerous. Good health depends on having safe homes that are free from physical hazards. Poor quality and inadequate housing contribute to health problems such as chronic diseases and injuries and can have harmful effects on childhood development. Poor indoor air quality, lead paint, and other hazards often coexist in homes, placing children and families at great risk for multiple health problems.

“Homeless and health go hand-in-hand. Homelessness leads to exposure to infection, lack of control over nutrition, personal hygiene, and sleep cycles — hence further debilitating the homeless. The psychological toll is as much as the physical, if not worse. The results are disastrous: homeless people suffer all illnesses at three to six times the rates experienced by others, have higher death rates, and have a dramatically lower life expectancy.

“The Baltimore Regional Housing Program works in several ways to combat homelessness, and I am honored to serve on their board as my contribution to work against this ongoing issue.”

Thank you for sharing, Steven.

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