Kaiser housed 300 homeless seniors in Oakland this year

OAKLAND — Kaiser Permanente has helped usher about 300 homeless seniors off the streets of Oakland and into stable housing over the past six months — a milestone that means the healthcare giant is more than halfway to its ultimate goal.

Oakland-based Kaiser, in partnership with the nonprofit Bay Area Community Services, in January pledged to house more than 500 homeless Oaklanders who are over the age of 50 and living with at least one chronic health condition. The move is part of a larger, on-going effort by Kaiser to address the Bay Area’s exploding homelessness crisis as a public health issue. The company last year said it would invest $200 million in housing and other support for low-income residents, and in January announced it was buying a 41-unit apartment in East Oakland to use as homeless housing.

“This is a game-changer for us,” said Jamie Almanza, executive director of Bay Area Community Services. “This partnership between Kaiser and BACS is truly kind of an interrupter, if you will, in terms of what the system of care for homelessness looks like on the ground.”

That’s because with Kaiser’s funds, BACS now has the ability to quickly house every eligible senior they come across, said Almanza. Those funds go toward security deposits and first and last month’s rent for BACS’s homeless clients, as well as the clients’ extra expenses like new mattresses or medical bills, and services like help with budgeting that will allow them to stay housed.

Kaiser on Thursday said it has housed more than 250 seniors, but Almanza said the program moves so quickly that more people have been housed since that news release was written — bringing the total closer to 300.

The number of homeless residents in Alameda County has grown by 43 percent since 2017, according to data released last month as part of the region’s biennial point-in-time count. The count increased by 31 percent in Santa Clara County.

One of those residents, 54-year-old Victor Nelson, spent a month sleeping in his car earlier this year after falling behind on rent and getting evicted from his Oakland apartment. Nelson had recently lost his job when the mental health clinic where he worked as a service coordinator shut down. Broke, sick and desperate, Nelson reached out to BACS in March. By April, the organization had found him a room in a shared three-bedroom Oakland house with rent payments capped at one-third of his income.

“There were times that I just thought it was over — that no one comes back from this,” Nelson said. “This is a new lease on life for me.”

Since moving indoors, Nelson’s health has improved and he’s started looking for a new job.

“What this means, it means I can be whole again,” Nelson said.

Kaiser hopes to place 515 seniors like Nelson under its current pilot program, and then expand its reach.

“I’m very very pleased with the way that this evolving,” said Kaiser Chief Community Health Officer Bechara Choucair.

 

Source: mercurynews
Kaiser housed 300 homeless seniors in Oakland this year