Wellnest: Housing Support Program
The WellNest Housing Support Program is committed to building a community where all neighbors feel at home. WellNest is a student-led initiative at the Duke University School of Medicine that aims to provide support to newly-housed community members in the Durham/Chapel Hill area who have a history of homelessness. The issue of affordable housing is Durham County’s number one community health priority according to recent Community Health Assessments.
Multiple studies have shown that homelessness and housing insecurity are deeply linked to poorer health outcomes including psychiatric disorders, substance use disorders, infectious diseases, unintentional injuries, and early mortality. Even after finding housing, many individuals face a variety of challenges in navigating the move-in process, and accessing community resources, which may lead to loss of housing again. Due to the benefits of improving public and individual health as well as the need in our community for tenancy support services, we have developed a program to assist with these efforts. We aim to recruit student-volunteers from all parts of Duke University.
Student-volunteers will receive training on how to provide tenancy support including topics such as the learning the needs of newly housed individuals, access community resources, and healthcare literacy. Student volunteers will help an assigned client with their move-in process, receive a budget to assist them in purchasing items for their home, help them access local resources that they may need, and ultimately develop a specific plan for year-long longitudinal support that is best fit for their client’s needs.
At this point, we have received the Chancellor’s Service Fellowship grant from the School of Medicine to support our project, and we also have the support and mentorship of multiple community partners, representing local organizations such as the Duke Outpatient Clinic, Healthcare for the Homeless, Reinvestment Partners, and the Community Development Department of the City of Durham. We intend to begin our first round of recruitment and training for student volunteers in Fall 2020 and continue to evaluate the program throughout our pilot year. Through this program, we hope to not only make an impact for folks in Durham that are currently in a critical period in their lives and can benefit from increased support, but also allow students in healthcare an opportunity to engage with their local community in a meaningful way as well as gaining increased insight and experience in important issues that are critical to many patients’ lives.