Health Care

Health Is a Human Right: A Conversation with Mike Butler

Providence St. Joseph Health executive Mike Butler discusses housing and homelessness

By Providence St. Joseph Health September 10, 2019


This post is sponsored.

Sponsored by Providence St. Joseph Health

Your organization is known for your statement, Health is a Human Right. How does this apply to housing and homelessness?
At Providence St. Joseph Health, we believe health is a human right. Everyone deserves the chance to live the healthiest life possible, and that starts with having a safe place to live.

Safe, secure housing is essential to health and well-being. Thats why were committed to finding innovative ways to ensure more people in our communities have access to safe and affordable housing.

How can housing solutions in general be organized around health care?
Our family of organizations has made it a priority to partner with nonprofits and agencies that offer housing and support. We make community benefit investments of resources and funding so that our partners can maintain or expand services to serve their communities with housing and related social services.

Another successful model is supportive housing. Providence operates 16 supportive housing communities in three states, including Washington. The program provides permanent, affordable and safe housing for more than 950 seniors and people with disabilities who have very low incomes. Each location is a caring, respectful community with on-site service coordination to promote independence and aging in place.

We also serve more than 900 residents in housing for seniors, either assisted living or independent, in four states, including Washington.

In two states, we operate a program that gives all-inclusive care to frail seniors. Two of those locations offer housing, supporting about 145 participants.

Altogether, Providence St. Joseph Health provides safe, secure housing to more than 2,000 residents in 27 locations across five states.

How can businesses contribute to solutions in Washington? What kind of positive effects can those contributions have for the business community?
We saw an example recently in Seattle. Providence, Swedish and Premera Blue Cross contributed a combined $15 million to Plymouth Housing, which is the largest provider of supportive housing in Seattle.
In terms of impact, having permanent, affordable housing results in the improved health and well-being of residents. Health care costs go down, too. But most importantly, finding solutions for safe, affordable housing is the right thing to do. Everyone deserves a place to call home.

Are there any commonalities youve seen for successful solutions to homelessness in some of the communities you serve?
Yes, definitely. Reducing homelessness is about partnerships. To make an impact, nonprofits, for-profits, governments, agencies, and health systems need to work together.

For example, we have the Providence Community Care Center in Olympia. We were the catalyst, but community donors also generously stepped up to fund the concept of wrap-around services and support for those experiencing homelessness.

Since the center started in 2017, more than 350 people have been placed into housing. Many other services have been provided, and it works because a large group of organizations decided to collaborate.

You have a lot of passion about housing. Where does that come from?
Im constantly inspired by our founders, the Sisters of Providence and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange. They have deep connections to serving those in need, including people who need safe shelter.

When others ran away from big problems, the sisters ran toward them, whether it was cholera, a flu epidemic or homelessness. They still do, and they are my inspiration.

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