OAKLAND — Kaiser Permanente has ushered more than 250 homeless seniors off the streets of Oakland and into stable housing over the past six months, the healthcare giant said Thursday — a milestone that means the company is 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.
The number of homeless residents in Alameda County has grown by 43 percent since 2017, according to new 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.
“Homeless individuals in their 50s are often as vulnerable as much older people. That means addressing the rapid increase in the aging homeless population will become more complex as we deal with chronic health issues such as diabetes and hypertension, respiratory illness, arthritis and mental health,” Jaime Almanza, executive director of BACS, wrote in a news release. “This really is a moral issue and we feel compelled to get people off the street. Our partnership with Kaiser Permanente is a bold, exciting move that will help address the growing needs of this aging homeless population by providing long-term housing and transforming individual lives.”
The Kaiser program first uses data to locate and identify eligible homeless seniors. Once they find housing for those seniors, BACS provides long-term social services to the program participants to help them stay housed. The current effort, with a goal to house 515 seniors, is an early pilot program that Kaiser hopes can be expanded.
“The dramatic increase in homelessness on our streets and in our communities is unacceptable,” Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Bernard Tyson wrote in the release. “Addressing homelessness is crucial to our mission to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. Our hope is that we can use this solution to expand to more locations and people.”
Kaiser housed more than 250 homeless seniors in Oakland this year