[Hpn] Request for feedback

Jason Albertson blakjak@attglobal.net
Wed, 15 Mar 2006 07:25:17 -0800


Currently I am working with the San Francisco Homeless Outreach Team. 
The team leader, a psychiatrist with public health and I have been 
talking about the pluses and minus of attempting to get accepted (by the 
larger community, the Department of Public Health, homeless advocates, 
and the nation) the idea of doctors being able to prescribe housing for 
people.

He and I have had a spirited discussion about many of the aspects of 
this. My objections have been that lack of housing shouldn't be 
medicalized, that housing itself is not treatment (its a right), and 
that if it has any relation to treatment, its as the container of the 
drug rather than the drug itself. My concern is that by medicalizing 
housing as a prescription for especially vulnerable homeless people we 
start defining a hierarchy of need and also allow doctors a lot of power 
to decide based on potentially vague criteria who should have housing. 
(I have other objections, but these are the main ones).

He feels that housing is a kind of treatment for certain homeless folks 
who have medical problems and can't get better without it, that by being 
able to prescribe housing to those who have additional vulnerability 
(psych, heavy substance abuse, physical health problems) there is a 
greater chance of being able to really help those folks. He likes, I 
think, the idea that one should be able to prescribe housing for those 
who need it, and get that prescription 'filled' fast and readily as a 
matter of medical necessity, just like you'd go get an antibiotic at the 
drugstore. I respond that usually its the social workers, such as myself 
whom the doctor tells 'get housing for this client' and then we go to 
work to find it and get the person into the housing. Making it a 
prescription eliminates some of the opportunities for others who may 
have just as much need but not be hooked up to the right doctor.

And so we go, around and around on this topic. I am curious to know what 
people on the list think.

What I am requesting is that if you have feedback on this topic, please 
be as specific as you can, either pro or con. What do you think, and 
why? What are the implications of what you think?

Take care

Jason Albertson
psychiatric social worker/formerly homeless
San Francisco Homeless Outreach Team



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