By: Jack Tsai, Darlene Jenkins, and Ellen Lawton. Published by: American Journal of Public Health. Published in: March 2017
Surveying 48 homeless service sites across 26 states, researchers assessed the prevalence of medical-legal partnerships with these homeless service organization, and the civil legal needs among the homeless individuals they serve. While prior studies have shown that medical-legal partnerships can have positive influences on health and overall life, only 5 out of 48 (10%) of service sites reported having any such collaboration. Those that did not participate in Medical-Legal Partnership typically cited reasons such as not knowing what medical-partnerships were, lacking on-site resources, and prioritizing other issues. Furthermore, only a fifth of the sample had received training to screen for civil legal needs, though an overwhelming amount (93%) indicated that patients experienced at least one civil legal-related need, including issues concerned employment, housing, health insurance, and disability benefits. This article ends with a call to action: by fostering the Medical-Legal Partnership approach and training to screen for needs, service providers can more effectively combat the problems that contribute to perpetual homelessness.