Connecting housing stability and health in La Crosse

At UnitedHealthcare, we build trust through collaboration. Relationships within the communities we serve are critical to help people work together to improve social determinants of health.

To address the need for stable, affordable housing, I traveled throughout Wisconsin to form relationships, learn about housing issues and find the greatest need for our financial support. My work led me to Couleecap and its executive director, Kim Cable. Couleecap is a non-profit organization that helps fight poverty by addressing key social determinants of health including housing, food, transportation and more. Together, Kim and I visited community-based organizations working on housing in La Crosse to discover what work was being done to address housing insecurity and homelessness and to find gaps in support services.

The relationship that we have built helps Couleecap to better support housing needs and allows me to serve as a conduit, connecting other community-based organizations, members and UnitedHealthcare staff with needed resources and information.

Tenant and landlord resource office to help renters

With our financial support, Couleecap collaborated with Legal Action of Wisconsin to create a Tenant and Landlord Resource Office to help renters in La Crosse keep their housing. The office is located within the REACH Services and Resource Center, a walk-in community space where anyone experiencing housing insecurity can access services as needed.  

The Tenant and Landlord Resource Office will complement and expand upon the services already offered in the building, combining the expertise and knowledge of the two organizations to fill a gap in assistance for renters. The goal is to increase housing stability, helping clients proactively address rental conditions and situations that can lead to evictions, foreclosures and possible homelessness.

Staff offer support for better relationships between renters and landlords. Services include one-on-one client consultations, conflict resolution services and educational workshops. Renters can also receive assistance paying rental application fees.

Housing stability impacts health

Growing evidence shows that housing stability and location can significantly affect health care costs, access and outcomes. For example, moving three or more times in one year, often called “multiple moves,” has been associated with negative health outcomes in children. Children who move frequently are more likely to have chronic conditions and poor physical health. They may also be less likely to have consistent health insurance coverage.1

Health care spending is often higher for people experiencing homelessness because they are more likely to use emergency departments as their primary source of health care.2 The loss of housing can lead to a disruption in physical and behavioral health care, which can exacerbate chronic conditions and increase anxiety or depression.

Housing-related support services like the Tenant and Landlord Resource Office can help build positive relationships with landlords and tenants and can give referrals to programs if a client is struggling. This reduces stress and can help avoid evictions. When renters stay in their homes, they can form attachments to neighborhoods and services, which also allows for continuity of health care.

Housing solutions build a stronger, healthier community

We are deeply honored to support Couleecap’s mission to serve as a bridge between landlords and tenants, to answer housing questions and to help people who are experiencing housing insecurity or homelessness find housing. Since it opened in July 2022, the office has connected with 65 landlords, consulted with 27 landlords and helped 281 clients maintain housing. Its early success in improving housing stability for renters is also a success for the entire community. Helping people stay in their homes is a powerful social determinant of health, increasing the likelihood that renters will be able to seek care and avoid health crises.

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