Toolkit / Guidebook

Discharge Planning for Homeless Patients

Understanding the law on preparing to return homeless patients to the community

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This guidebook explains California’s homeless patient discharge planning law and offers insights to help hospitals prepare to return homeless patients to the community. Discharge Planning for Homeless Patients includes valuable checklists and:

  • Explains the requirements of California’s homeless patient discharge planning law
  • Describes the required elements of a homeless patient discharge planning policy
  • Details how to implement the plan throughout the facility
  • Covers what to expect regarding enforcement
  • Includes sample forms and additional resources to ease compliance

The law requires hospitals to coordinate the patient’s discharge to appropriate area shelters or other community-based services; this guidebook is meant to help hospitals comply with the law. Updates in the 2019 edition include:

  • A new Executive Summary
  • Clarification of the public health officer’s role in recommending screening for infectious disease and vaccinations for homeless patients
  • Clarification of the requirement to maintain a homeless patient log
  • A new sample questionnaire to help determine if a patient is homeless
  • Information about coding for homelessness
  • A template “Homeless Shelter Information Sheet”

(Second edition, August 2019)


  • Introduction
  • Which Hospitals Must Comply
  • Which Patients Are Covered
  • Written Policy
  • Services that Most Be Provided to Homeless Patients Before Discharge
  • Coordinating Services and Referrals with Community Partners
  • Privacy Issues
  • Homeless Patient Log
  • Local Ordinances and Preemption
  • Patient Elopement and Leaving Against Medical Advice
  • Enforcement and Penalties
  • Checklist for Complying with California’s Homeless Patient Discharge Planning Law
  • Forms and Appendices 

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