woman walking down a dirt road with houses on either side, holding a small child

December 09, 2021

Webinar on COVID-19’s relationship with rural homelessness and housing is Dec. 16

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A new report looks at the relationship of COVID-19 and rural housing and homelessness in Illinois and recommends substantive actions to improve the housing situation in those regions of the state.

“Rural housing and homelessness challenges are rarely discussed, but many rural residents struggle to find affordable, quality housing,” said Dr. Sameer Vohra, pediatrician and chair of the SIU Medicine Department of Population Science and Policy. “Additionally, rural residents who face housing insecurity or homelessness often suffer from related health issues. These recommendations describe strategies on how organizations in Illinois can address housing and homelessness as an aspect of health to improve rural residents’ overall wellness and quality of life.”

The Illinois Rural Health Summit will host a webinar at noon Thursday, Dec. 16, to discuss how COVID-19 has impacted rural housing in Illinois. Registration is open for that webinar and a schedule of upcoming webinars. Linda Baker, university professor, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, will serve as moderator.

The rural health summit organizing group, consisting of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine Department of Population Science and Policy, SIU Carbondale Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, The University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health and the SIU Medicine Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development, have developed a set of recommendations to improve housing in rural Illinois.

The recommendations are:

  • Create an Illinois Rural Housing Solutions Taskforce to commission a set of recommendations to better collect housing data and develop housing needs assessments for rural communities.
  • Encourage hospitals and local public health departments to use Community Health Needs Assessments and I-PLANS to study and address housing and other social determinants of health.
  • Pilot the creation of rural community care centers to encourage a system of care linking health care to housing and other social needs.

The policy recommendations are the result of discussions from rural health stakeholders, community leaders, legislators, physicians and experts from organizations throughout Illinois and build on the Rural Health Summit’s initial report, “Building a Healthier Rural Illinois: Understanding and Addressing the Challenges of COVID-19.”

The Rural Health Summit is releasing monthly topic-specific policy briefs and hosting corresponding webinars through January 2022 on topics of an aging rural population, mental health, public health systems, nutrition and fitness, children’s growth and development, workforce development, opioids, health and housing, and economic development.