John Montgomery calls himself a recovering homeless person. The 63 year old spent three years living on the streets of Houston after losing his job, his income and ultimately his home. Montgomery became a frequent visitor to the emergency rooms of the city’s hospitals for pneumonia, chronic pain and complications from his uncontrolled diabetes. He also suffered from depression.
“After a while, being homeless turned bad, you know. You couldn’t even imagine what it does to me, so I’m grateful,” said Montgomery; grateful to be off the streets and living in supportive housing provided by SEARCH Homeless Services.
“When you’re homeless, you don’t know where to go. You don’t know what agency has what services."
In Houston, a number of different agencies and organizations work together to address homelessness through a coordinated access program. UnitedHealthcare is one of those organizations.
“When you’re homeless, you don’t know where to go. You don’t know what agency has what services. You don’t know whose offering housing,” said Dominic Hardie, a housing navigator with UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Texas. He says his role helps bridge the gap between various services, and help individuals improve their health. “You get to see someone who was living on the streets and you get them connected with housing and you just see everything in their life start to be better. And especially when it comes to health care.”
After Montgomery signed up for UnitedHealthcare through the state, he was assigned a care coordinator to manage his diverse physical and mental health needs. She helped him find a primary care provider and arranged for accommodations in his apartment like a shower bar and walker to help with his disabilities.
“You have two types of people out on the streets. You have the homeless and you got the hopeless.”
Montgomery now has a refrigerator for his insulin and access to a kitchen to prepare meals which helps him better manage his diabetes. He no longer has to go to the emergency room for care. He says his whole outlook has changed, and it started with finding a home. “You have two types of people out on the streets. You have the homeless and you got the hopeless.” Montgomery says he never gave up hope, and now is optimistic about his future.
UnitedHealthcare currently has housing navigators in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.