It’s hard to be physically healthy while living in unstable housing, scraping by without a job, fighting depression, and perhaps even trying to escape domestic violence.
That’s why a new partnership of two Philadelphia nonprofits, Inglis and Methodist Services, aims to create a solution for that complex of needs through the Philadelphia Housing as Health Collaborative. The proposed 47-unit, $16.4 million apartment building — Inglis Methodist Gardens — will combine medical care, mental-health services, social services, and, potentially, job training.
Providing a $4 million grant for the project, to be announced Friday, is Aetna Better Health, which manages Medicaid benefits for about 200,000 Pennsylvanians, including 35,000 in Philadelphia. Most of the money would come from low-income housing tax credits, if the project is selected in the coming round of funding from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.
“If you don’t have a roof over your head or a safe place to live, it’s pretty hard for you to worry about what your blood pressure is or maintaining your diabetes,” said Jason Rottman, chief executive of Aetna Better Health of Pennsylvania. Rottman said the proposed project is in the “sweet spot of the areas where we want to work,” specifically mentioning individuals with disabilities and single mothers at risk of homelessness.
The West Philadelphia project, on Methodist’s campus at 4300 Monument Rd, is modeled after an approach advocated by the National Center for Complex Health and Social Needs at the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers.
That Camden group “is trying to bring together disparate folks around the country who have been working with the most vulnerable and most expensive individuals in their communities to address those complex needs that transcend the traditional silos of health care versus social care versus mental health and addiction,” said Mark Humowiecki, senior director of the Camden center.
That’s why the Housing as Health Collaborative is including the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine for physical health, Belmont Behavioral Hospital for mental health, and Philadelphia Fight for medical services, education, and job training oriented to the LGBT community from the beginning, said Anne Rice Burgess, president and chief executive of Methodist Services. Most of the participants are neighbors along Belmont Avenue, Ford Road, and City Avenue.
Instead of referring people out for services, as Methodist has historically done for its clients in permanent or transitional housing, at the beginning of the relationship the “partners will assess the health needs of residents and, collaboratively, create comprehensive health management plans with residents at the helm,” Burgess said. Methodist currently has 77 women and about 90 children living on its 22-acre campus in existing permanent or transitional housing.
The proposed Inglis Methodist complex, which is competing for tax credits with 17 other projects in Philadelphia alone, would have 24 units for low-income or formerly homeless individuals supported by Methodist and 23 units for Inglis clients in wheelchairs. The Housing Finance Agency’s awards are expected in early summer, a spokesman said.
The city had 4,926 such supportive housing beds at the beginning of last year and estimated that it needs an additional 2,475, according to a five-year plan released last year by the Office of Homeless Services.
Dyann Roth, president and chief executive of Inglis, said she hopes that mixing mothers and kids with younger adults in wheelchairs will help “children grow up really knowing people with disabilities in a new way, just as their neighbors rather than as people they don’t understand or might even fear.”
Inglis’ contribution will be $350,000, which is estimated to be equivalent to the value of the land Methodist is providing for the building. The Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh is providing $700,000.
Asked what the partners would do if they didn’t receive the $11.4 million in tax credits, Roth said: “We’re very strongly committed to the project. We believe it’s a great one. It’s such a competitive process. There’s so much need.”