Celebrating collaboration: Hoteling the Homeless wins the WHI’s inaugural Collaborative Health Impact Award

On October 18, Washtenaw Health Initiative (WHI) stakeholders selected the inaugural winner of the WHI’s Collaborative Health Impact Award.

The award was developed to honor the 10th anniversary of the WHI. It recognizes collaborations with a significant and positive impact on community health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Five health improvement collaborations were nominated: hoteling those experiencing homelessness during the pandemic; increasing food distribution during the pandemic; distributing masks to our Spanish-speaking community; expanding health services to children during the pandemic; and door-to-door canvassing in Ypsilanti communities.

Hotelling the Homeless won with 65% of the votes.

The collaboration between the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County (SAWC), the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development, Washtenaw County Community Mental Health (WCCMH), and many others, housed individuals in hotels during the fall and winter of 2020 to 2021.

Access to safe and individual housing very likely saved lives. Homeless populations are especially at risk for COVID-19 for several reasons, including a high rate of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and heart disease, which can make COVID-19 infections more severe. Homeless populations can have up to six times as many instances of chronic conditions.

But the impact of having a room and phone was much larger, and sometimes unexpected. With a phone and an address, it was easier for individuals to make medical appointments, and for staff to locate residents, provide medication or care, and check in. WCCMH assisted residents with paperwork for job applications, food stamps, housing, and more. 

Most importantly, the housing provided residents with a safe and stable location, which improved their physical and mental health in many ways. 

The WHI congratulates all the community partners who came together to support and protect a vulnerable population. Kate D’Alessio from SAWC attended the WHI stakeholders meeting to accept the award.

Collaborations, partnerships, and networks like this initiative will be required to solve complex problems and make significant improvements to health, health equity, and health care for Washtenaw County’s low-income, uninsured, underinsured, and underrepresented populations. The WHI looks forward to celebrating these vital collaborations every year with the Collaborative Health Impact Award.