Homelessness is a healthcare issue

By Alexandra Gunnoe
Thursday, September 27, 2018

Premera and Covenant House partner to eradicate youth homelessness from Premera on Vimeo.

Statistics show that homeless people have higher rates of chronic health issues, and about 80 percent of the time, they visit the emergency room for conditions that could have been treated outside of the ER. When a homeless person is housed, however, healthcare costs are reduced by 59 percent and emergency room costs are reduced by 61 percent.

"The average life expectancy of a homeless person is only 42 to 52 years old,” said Jim Grazko, president and general manager of Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska. “But put a roof over that same person’s head and life expectancy increases to 78 years of age.”

A bold vision

On July 19, Premera granted Covenant House Alaska $1 million to help them fulfill their vision of eradicating youth homelessness.

I had the opportunity to visit Anchorage to interview Alison E. Kear, executive director of Covenant House Alaska, and see firsthand the impact they are having on homeless youth in Alaska.

They not only give kids stability by providing basic needs like a home, showers, clean clothes, medical attention and food, they also provide job readiness training, facilitate counseling sessions, as well as music, art and cooking lessons. Additionally, they show by example how caring relationships are based on mutual trust and respect.

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Covenant House is working hard to make youth homelessness rare, brief and nonrecurring, and we are proud to support them in this endeavor.

Alexandra Gunnoe is in Corporate Communications at Premera Blue Cross.

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