Pandemic Creates Plague of Evictions

Originally published on Urban Milwaukee.

Doctor: Evictions akin to “toxic exposure”

Dr. Megan Sandel, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center, said at least a third of the 14,000 families whose children are seen at the center have fallen behind on their rent, a figure mirrored in national reports.

Hospital officials worry that an evictions spike would trigger a surge of patients experiencing homelessness, who are more challenging and expensive to treat. One study from 2016 found that stable housing reduced Medicaid spending by 12%. That is because while primary care use increased 20%, more expensive emergency room visits dropped by 18%.

A year ago, Boston Medical Center and two area hospitals collaborated to invest $3 million in emergency housing assistance and community organizing focused on affordable housing policies and development. Now, the hospitals are looking for additional emergency funds, trying to boost legal resources for tenants and work more closely with public housing authorities and state rental assistance programs.

“We are a safety net hospital. We don’t have unlimited resources,” Sandel said. “But being able to avert an eviction is like avoiding a toxic exposure.”

Sandel said the real way to avoid an eviction crisis is to offer Americans substantially more emergency rental assistance along the lines of the $100 billion included in what House Democrats dubbed the Heroes Act. Boston Medical Center is among the 26 health care associations and systems that signed a letter urging Democratic House and Republican Senate leaders to agree on rental and homeless assistance as well as a national moratorium on evictions for the entire pandemic.

“Without action from Congress, we are going to see a tsunami of evictions, and its fallout will directly impact the healthcare system and harm the health of families and individuals for years to come,” the letter stated.