Medically Homeless Report-Press

Report Recommends NYS Implements Short-Term Intervention for Homeless New Yorkers With Serious Medical Conditions

For Immediate Release  
Contact: [email protected] | c: 917.771.9845

(January 29, 2020) New York: Today, New York Legal Assistance Group’s (NYLAG) LegalHealth Division in collaboration with the Coalition on Housing and Health released a new report entitled Homeless New Yorkers Need a Safe Place to Recuperate – Not the Street. This timely report is based on over two years of work by more than 75 organizations and experts concerned about the medically homeless in New York. The report describes what needs to be done to address the need for short-term medical respite, defined as providing “recuperative care… a safe and humane alternative when ‘discharge to home’ is not possible for those without homes.” This report offers the blueprint for New York to follow the national movement of providing respite for this subset of the homeless.

“Housing and health are inextricably connected and, without a safe place for people experiencing homelessness to recuperate, their condition deteriorates, and they wind up back in the hospital. Almost without exception, all the literature and data the Coalition members reviewed made clear that the benefit of medical respite programs to the patients, the hospitals, insurance companies, and the government payers exceed the costs incurred by such programs “said Director of NYLAG’s LegalHealth Division, Randye Retkin.

“As the findings of this report show, providing a space where our homeless neighbors can recuperate from medical treatment is not only a compassionate but sound policy. Medical respite provides recovery in a supportive space, preventing relapse and unnecessary complications. It also allows for access to services and follow-up, while freeing up much-needed space in hospitals for people with emergent conditions. Being homeless should not mean you don’t receive necessary medical care and follow up, but it too often does. I think we should begin the recommended process of data collection and assessment to determine where the highest areas of need are so we can begin to provide this necessary and beneficial service,” said New York City Council Member Stephen T. Levin.

“Picture what it is like for someone who is receiving chemotherapy, with all of its attendant side effects, to be living in their car or under the trestle. We need to provide a safe, healthy environment in which all New Yorkers can recuperate with dignity,” said Chief, Immigrant Health and Cancer Disparities Service, at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Francesca M. Gany, MD, MS.

“As an organization working at the intersection of healthcare and housing, we have long advocated for medical respite as a practical, cost-effective service for people experiencing homelessness to receive the care and support they need to get well and move towards permanent housing. Over the past two years, through the organizing efforts of NYLAG’s LegalHealth Division, there has been a groundswell of interest in medical respite across stakeholder groups. The major hurdle to bringing respite to scale in New York City is the lack of a regulatory framework. We look forward to working with the State to find a solution so that this vital service will be available to more New Yorkers in need,” said Executive Director at The Health & Housing Consortium, Inc., Bonnie Mohan.

Some of the report’s recommendations for implementing medical respite in New York are as follows:


  • We recommend that the initial focus should be on the smaller subset of the medically homeless who require short-term medical respite care.
  • We recommend that the initial paths to access medical respite should be from those being discharged from the hospital and pre-hospitalization.
  • We recommend a minimum of one respite program per borough with approximately 15 beds in four of the five boroughs and three beds in Staten Island.


  • Funding sources should include hospitals, FQHCs, managed care organizations, foundations, and government.

Legal/Regulator Options

  • We recommend that certification and licensing options could include certification by the NYS Office of Temporary & Disability Assistance as a shelter or licensing from the NYS Department of Health for a new respite certification through state authority.

“Social determinants of health, such as race inequity and homelessness, can lead to poorer health outcomes. The research and our report show that implementing a medical respite program can go a long way in helping homeless New Yorkers with serious medical conditions heal and have a chance at a more stable life. I am thankful to my colleague Randye Retkin and the LegalHealth team for their incredible work on this issue, and we are eager to work with City and State officials on next steps,” said NYLAG’s President & Attorney-in-Charge, Beth Goldman.

To learn more about these recommendations, and to read the full report, visit nylag.org/medicallyhomeless.

About NYLAG and its LegalHealth Division

New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) is a leading non-profit that provides free civil legal services and financial counseling and engages in policy advocacy efforts to help people experiencing poverty. LegalHealth, a division of NYLAG, is the nation’s largest medical-legal partnership. It was founded in 2001 to complement healthcare with legal care, providing free legal services in medical facilities and training healthcare professionals to understand the legal issues their patients face.


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