The Center to Transform Health and Housing works to improve health outcomes and health and housing equity for people experiencing homelessness.
When the COVID-19 pandemic response began in Chicago in March 2020, Rush health care providers who volunteered their time at the Franciscan House of Mary and Joseph and Rush University students met daily to mitigate the spread at Franciscan House, a vital emergency shelter on the West Side. Word quickly spread to other shelter providers about the health services being offered there, and soon other shelters were requesting the same. Lawndale Christian Health Center, Heartland Alliance Health, Cook County Health and the University of Illinois Chicago joined as well to consolidate our efforts. This group became known as the Chicago Homelessness and Health Response Group for Equity (CHHRGE), and the lead coordinating organizations were Lawndale Christian Health Center and Heartland Alliance Health. It was this collaborative work that inspired the need for the Center to Transform Health and Housing at Rush University Medical Center.
The following programs were created as part of this unified response:
- COVID-19 Community Congregate Testing
- A team, in partnership with the University of Illinois Chicago, tests individuals across Chicago for COVID-19 in communal settings such as congregate living facilities, including skilled nursing homes, shelters and jails.
- Medical Respite Emergency Shelter
- A partnership between Rush, A Safe Haven and the Chicago Department of Public Health was created for individuals experiencing homelessness who needed a safe place with round-the-clock medical care to recover from COVID-19.
- Temporary Shield Housing
- Hotel Julian, among other hotels, was used to provide temporary shield housing designed to protect those at substantial risk for poor outcomes if they contracted COVID-19.
Our funders, Chicago Trading Company, contacted Rush wanting to provide financial support for these efforts both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, the Center to Transform Health and Housing was established in May 2021.
Rush University Medical Center has a rich history of providing care to this population in the community, the Center is building on this legacy and framework by expanding to support, engage and transform health and housing in Chicago.