Hawaii's homeless could soon be prescribed a house by doctor

homeless person
Homelessness could soon be classed as a medical condition in Hawaii.

Doctors in Hawaii may soon treat sick homeless patients with a new prescription - a house.

A proposal to classify homelessness as a medical condition is making its way through state legislature.

Democratic senator Josh Green is behind the bill and says getting people into homes would dramatically decrease the cost on health systems.

"I said just cut to the chase and call this [homelessness] what it is, which is a healthcare condition, get the doctors and social workers to these patients and you'll see improvements."

Senator Green is also a doctor and sees the problem first hand.

"I know the very individuals who are suffering. I've seen them over the years. Some people come into the ER over 100 times a year when they're homeless and suffering."

Lifewise New Zealand chief executive Moira Lawler says he's right to identify poverty as a health issue.

"Chronic mental health and addiction issues are a big part of why they're homeless. If you live with illness of any kind, holding down a job is difficult."

But Ms Lawler says while it's an innovative idea, New Zealand's housing market could make it impractical here.

"He's right to identify doing nothing about it costs our system, but here not only do we have lack of housing but the housing we do have is unaffordable."

"We would need to find them housing of their choosing they can actually afford.

But Mr Lawler says focusing on healthcare to tackle poverty is encouraging.

"We have people who are homeless to the point of death. Vulnerable people are being exposed to the type of conditions that make it hard to stay well. It's a horrible truth people perhaps don't care to think about."