Nonprofit health care system Kaiser Permanente announced on Jan. 17 it will be a first private sector contributor to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s newly announced fund to combat homelessness in the state, committing $25 million to the effort.
This pledge supports efforts statewide across Kaiser Permanente’s footprint and builds on the $200 million in impact investments that Kaiser Permanente has announced in recent years in support of community health mainly focusing on affordable housing. It also complements ongoing sustainable rapid-housing programs and efforts to strengthen systems that can end chronic homelessness, Kaiser said in a news release.
Newsom announced the creation of the $750 million California Access to Housing and Services Fund in a preview of his 2020-21 budget on Jan. 8, calling on corporate and philanthropic organizations to contribute to the fund as well. The fund will focus on prevention and early intervention by paying rent for individuals experiencing homelessness or on the verge of losing housing; supporting local governments to develop additional low-income housing units; and helping stabilize board-and-care facilities that house multiple people.
“Chronic homelessness has been shown to cut 27 years from the average life span and is associated with communicable diseases such as hepatitis and typhus, increased hospitalizations, and frequent readmissions,” said Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Greg Adams. “Safe and stable housing is key to a person’s physical, mental and social health, so we applaud the governor’s plan to address homelessness. Our investment in the fund aligns with Kaiser Permanente’s overall strategy to preserve affordable housing and prevent displacement of existing residents, while addressing the root causes of homelessness in our communities.”
The California Access to Housing and Services Fund is the cornerstone of Newsom’s budget proposal, which allocates more than $1 billion to address homelessness. Funds will be given directly to local providers throughout California by the Department of Social Services, providing flexibility to allocate resources to address communities’ varying needs.
“The homelessness crisis impacts every community in California and it’s on all of us to step up and lean in to find solutions. Just nine days after challenging California’s philanthropic and private sectors to partner with the state, Kaiser Permanente answered the call,” said Newsom. “I thank Kaiser Permanente’s leadership for meeting this moment head on with $25 million and joining with local and state efforts to get Californians off the street and into housing and health services.”
Affordable housing and homelessness are a significant focus of Kaiser Permanente’s mission to improve the health outcomes of the 68 million people who live in the communities the organization serves, including Fontana.
Overall mortality rates among people experiencing chronic homelessness are 3 to 4 times that of the general population. Homelessness increases the level and amount of care the health system must provide, even as it limits how successful that care can be. Common conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma are nearly impossible to manage without housing.
“As a nonprofit integrated health system, we have strived to create total health for our members and our communities, and we know without a place to call home it is nearly impossible to maintain health,” said Dr. Cynthia Telles, Community Health committee chair for the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals Boards of Directors. “Kaiser Permanente has moved beyond hospital walls to improve the lives of people in the communities we serve.”
Kaiser Permanente’s work to combat homelessness includes an initiative with Bay Area Community Services to house 515 Oakland adults above the age of 50 and battling chronic health conditions; and a partnership with Community Solutions to enact system change that will end chronic homelessness in 24 communities that Kaiser Permanente serves.