Kaiser Permanente Program To House 300 Homeless Seniors


Photo: KATU

Kaiser Permanente Northwest is funding a $5.1 million project that will take an “anything necessary” approach to achieving the goal of housing 300 homeless, medically vulnerable seniors by the end of 2020.

“Without a safe, stable place to call home, it’s nearly impossible to focus on basic health and medical needs,” said Ruth Williams-Brinkley, president, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals of the Northwest. “This is especially true for our seniors, who are often dealing with chronic diseases and other complex health issues. Kaiser Permanente’s mission is to improve the health of the communities we serve, which is why we’re advancing bold ideas to reduce homelessness.”

Kaiser Permanente’s $5.1 million investment in the “Metro 300” initiative will also catalyze the new Regional Supportive Housing Impact Fund, which uses an innovative approach that will make funding for housing available more quickly and efficiently. The RSHIF, which will pool contributions from health system, philanthropy and business partners, will be administered by Health Share of Oregon, a coordinated care organization that manages the state’s Medicaid resources for the Portland metro region.

With Health Share as the lead entity, the RSHIF will combine philanthropic dollars with Medicaid funds and deploy them to increase the availability of deeply affordable housing with services and to support housing stability for people with complex health needs.

By addressing a key driver of health – housing – Kaiser Permanente is working with partners to improve the health and well-being of the communities we serve, including our members. As a health care organization, Kaiser Permanente recognizes that individuals who are homeless have a higher rate of hospital re-admissions and emergency room visits while also suffering from poorer health outcomes and higher mortality rates.

“Homelessness is the number one issue facing our community, and solving it requires long-term solutions that address the underlying reasons people become and stay homeless,” said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. “It’s a complex problem that requires the creativity and collaboration of everyone in our community, and we appreciate that Kaiser Permanente and others in our region’s health care, philanthropic, business and government sectors are taking an active role in bringing new solutions to the table.”

Partners in the RSHIF include:

• Cambia Health Foundation

• CareOregon

• Central City Concern

• Collins Foundation

• Health Share of Oregon

• Kaiser Permanente

• Legacy Health

• Meyer Memorial Trust

• OHSU (and Adventist, an OHSU partner)

• Oregon Community Foundation

• Portland Business Alliance

• Providence Health & Services

This initiative is modeled on Kaiser Permanente’s successful partnership in Oakland, California, that housed 515 seniors during 2019. Health Share, as administrator of the RSHIF, will allocate the Kaiser Permanente funding to housing agencies in each county, and the agencies will deploy this flexible resource to quickly house a total of 300 homeless people.

To qualify for the Metro 300 funding, individuals will have one or more disabling conditions and/or will be referred from one or more systems of care or institutions, such as recuperative care programs, assertive community treatment, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, coordinated entry/coordinated access waitlists, federally qualified health centers, or warming shelters.

The counties will collaborate with a network of providers to serve the 300 seniors through an “anything necessary” approach that includes housing navigation, move-in and rental assistance and ongoing supportive services to ensure ongoing permanent housing stability. The counties will track a by-name list of people served, and Health Share will analyze health utilization and outcomes as part of an evaluation of the project’s impact.

Kaiser Permanente was joined by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and other local leaders to announce the initiative at a press conference held at Argyle Gardens — Transition Projects’ new low-income single adult housing development — during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day service project by 180 Kaiser Permanente volunteers. The deeply affordable low-income single adult housing, funded by the State of Oregon and other partners (and unrelated to the RSHIF or Metro 300 projects), will provide more than 70 people with a safe, clean place to live, and volunteers were helping with finishing touches like painting, building garden beds and organizing a food pantry.

Safe, stable housing is essential to a person’s health, and Kaiser Permanente is leading efforts to end homelessness and preserve affordable housing by making impact investments, shaping policy and catalyzing innovation through partnerships.

Kaiser Permanente’s approach to housing includes a variety of mechanisms and is effecting change across the housing system, from ending homelessness to providing investments for affordable housing development and preservation and advocating for policy change.

Recent programs, partnerships and investments:

• Housing for Health grant initiative: a $2.2 million investment to support nonprofits across the region in hiring traditional health workers (peer support specialists and community health workers) to help people to find, secure and maintain safe, stable housing.

• Housing Is Health: a $4 million investment in partnership with Central City Concern and 5 other health systems to build 3 new residential buildings in Portland.

• Commons on MLK: A $750,000 contribution to the Commons on MLK project in Eugene, a “housing first” development that will provide 51 studio apartments for the chronically homeless and medically fragile.

• Community clinic integration grant initiative: a $600,000 grant initiative with 10 social service organizations to address housing and other social needs of Kaiser Permanente members and the larger community, improve referrals and data sharing between social services and health care providers, and create a learning collaborative to inform a social service resource locator in the Northwest region.

• Community network: in 2019 Kaiser Permanente launched a new social health network in Oregon and Southwest Washington that is creating connections between health care providers and social services agencies to address pressing social needs such as housing, food, safety, transportation and utilities.

• Mayors and CEOs for Housing Investment: a coalition between Kaiser Permanente, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and others in “Mayors and CEOs for Housing Investment”, a coalition that is advocating at the federal level.

Source: Kaiser Permanente