Barbara DiPietro is the Senior Director of Policy for the National Health Care for the Homeless Council and is employed by Health Care for the Homeless in Baltimore. The Council represents 300 Health Care for the Homeless programs across the country, providing training, technical assistance, research, policy and advocacy
Q: Are all member programs like us?
Baltimore is one of the largest stand-alone Health Care for the Homeless projects in the country. There are plenty of people out there who provide care, but few as invested in advocacy.
Q: How has that advocacy changed in the context of COVID-19?
I’ve been working with federal officials to develop guidance around homelessness, and I’ve seen a few big wins. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now urge communities not to clear encampments during the COVID response. Many states have banned evictions. Medicaid has made telemedicine much more flexible.
Q: Do you see a long-term impact?
Every community is being forced to acknowledge the existence of its homeless citizens and the fundamental shortcomings of our housing and health care systems. The advocacy goal now is to make permanent many of these changes, and to finally recognize housing and health care as human rights.
Q: What’s one thing we can do to help?
My quick tip: Go into favorites on your phone and plug in your policymakers’ numbers. Then call them over lunch. Personal calls work to get issues on the radar. Plus it’s a fun party trick to say, “Hey Siri, call my delegate!”
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