Home Again: Only a Home Ends Homelessness
Jan Yost- President & CEO, Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts
 Dr. Jan Yost has been president and CEO of The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts for eight years.  The Foundation's primary mission is to use its resources to promote health and be a catalyst for positive change in the region. Since its founding in 1999, the Foundation has provided over $15 million in grants to health improvement efforts in Central Massachusetts. The Foundation approaches the term "health" in the broadest sense, using the World Health Organization's definition as "a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being."


It is in that spirit that The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts has provided over $1 million in grants to the development of the Home Again model project.  For Dr. Yost, funding an innovative approach to ending homelessness based on programs proven successful in other communities aligned with the Foundation's mission. She has also been an active part of Home Again, serving on the both the Steering Committee and the Advisory Council for the project.


"Because homelessness exacerbates a range of health problems, The Health Foundation was pleased when several community-based organizations came together and approached us for funding to end adult chronic homelessness in Worcester," says Dr. Yost.


As part of the Home Again Advisory Council, Dr. Yost was part of the larger team that reviewed the best practices of "housing first" programs used in other communities and advised the Home Again project on the best way to adapt  the approach to the needs of the Worcester area.  "The evidence from successful efforts in other communities across the country points to 'housing first' as the best approach to ending homelessness," says Dr. Yost.  "After carefully evaluating the evidence from a range of programs, the Home Again model project recognizes that providing the powerful combination of a home and support services is the most compassionate and effective way to end adult chronic homelessness, which is a major public health issue in Worcester."


Dr. Yost says that often, stereotypes about homeless people prevent some in the community from realizing that there is a fine line between having a home and living on the streets.  "The root causes of homelessness are poverty and disability.  When just one more unexpected expense comes up, on top of the high cost of housing, heating, and food, a person can easily fall into homelessness," says Dr. Yost.  "If that person also has chronic health issues, including serious mental health issues and drug and alcohol dependency, then it can be very difficult to break out of the cycle of chronic homelessness on your own, and the community, through programs like Home Again, needs to intervene."