Too Healthy for the Hospital, Too Sick for the Streets


When a patient leaves the hospital, they’re often sent home with specific instructions — take these pills twice a day, stay off your feet, change your bandage. But what if you don’t have a home to go back to? 

For nearly 40 years, a small number of nonprofits, hospitals, and federally qualified health centers have run “medical respite” facilities — places where people experiencing homelessness can recuperate when they’re too sick to be on the streets but not sick enough for the hospital. As the country’s homeless problem has gotten worse, the number of programs has nearly doubled in the last five years, driven partly through increased interest from health plans.

In this Tradeoffs podcast episode — the latest in a series made possible through a partnership between the Better Care Playbook and the national health policy podcast — the show dives deep into how medical respite works, the problem it’s trying to solve, the evidence behind it, what’s fueling its recent growth, and what barriers remain in its way. It features a man who says medical respite saved his life, two Washington D.C. respite programs that demonstrate how the intervention has evolved, a national expert, and a D.C. insurance company newly investing in medical respite.

Learn More

Explore what works in housing interventions and supports, what programs look like in practice, and implementation strategies in the Better Care Playbook’s Housing and Health Collection.

About the Tradeoffs Podcast Series Supported by the Playbook

The Playbook is supporting Tradeoffs, a national health policy podcast, as it develops a series of episodes on improving care for people with complex health and social needs. Tradeoffs is a weekly podcast that explores the intersection of health care, policy, and people, including issues relevant to complex care. The podcast series is made possible by Arnold Ventures, The Commonwealth Fund, The John A. Hartford Foundation, the Milbank Memorial Fund, the Peterson Center on Healthcare, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and The SCAN Foundation.

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