Health & Medicine

Kaiser invests $3 million to end homelessness in Sacramento, 14 other communities

Homeless in Sacramento

Sacramento Bee photographers found a few people willing to tell us why they are homeless.
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Sacramento Bee photographers found a few people willing to tell us why they are homeless.

Kaiser Permanente announced Monday that it will invest $3 million over the next three years in an effort to end chronic homelessness in the Sacramento region and 14 other communities around the United States.

“Kaiser Permanente is investing in efforts to reduce homelessness and housing insecurity because there is a proven link between housing and health,” said Kaiser chairman and CEO Bernard J. Tyson. “Addressing affordable housing and homelessness is crucial to Kaiser Permanente’s mission to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve, and to advance the economic, social and environmental conditions for health.”

As part of the effort, known as Built for Zero, Kaiser will be working with New York-based Community Solutions to apply problem-solving tools that the organization said has ended chronic homelessness in Bergen County, N.J.; Lancaster, Pa.; and Rockford, Ill. It also said that nine U.S. locales, including Riverside, Calif., and Abilene, Texas, have ended homelessness among veterans.

In a statement to The Bee, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said: “We hope the information provided by the Built for Zero initiative will allow us to better evaluate our homeless population in Sacramento and to find the housing solutions to most effectively serve them.”

In a June 8, 2018, article on the Rockford Register Star website, the city’s community services director discussed how the city had quietly become the second in the nation to effectively eliminate chronic homelessness.

Jennifer Jaeger said: “In the past, our community didn’t have a single point of entry and homeless people tried to enter into whatever program where they knocked on the door. There was no coordination and no level playing field. Agencies could pick and choose who they wanted to work with and house. Now it is all leveled. People get ranked according to severity of needs. Those with the most need get housed first.”

Sacramento County Supervisor Sue Frost said she was delighted to see that Kaiser was continuing to help in providing solutions to homelessness. She added that a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on a Boise, Idaho, case has put local governments on notice that they must find ways to shelter the homeless if they want to bar them from staying overnight on public property.

“Now more than ever, we need real-time tools and information that will help us quickly connect homeless individuals with shelter and services,” Frost said. “It looks like this is something that is going to be searching for those types of tools and solutions.”

Rosanne Haggerty, president and co-founder of Community Solutions, said: “Together, we will use data and analytics to help these communities adopt the tools they need to end homelessness and address the conditions that create it.”

Haggerty worked in the field of affordable housing for 20 years, according to the nonprofit’s website, but she left to found this organization in 2011 because homelessness and poverty were expanding faster than she could turn out new homes. In the first four years of her organization’s existence, the company said, the leadership team helped 25 times as many people as they did in their combined 20 years of prior work.

People experiencing homelessness usually end up seeking care in emergency rooms, often because the lack of safe, stable housing makes it difficult for them to store medication and recover from illness. Statistics also show that people experiencing chronic homelessness are three to four times more likely to die than the general population.

In California, Kaiser and Community Solutions are working with the city and county of Sacramento; Bakersfield and Kern County; Fresno and Madera counties; Marin County; Santa Cruz, Watsonville and Santa Cruz County; and Riverside County. In other parts of the nation, they will team up in Baltimore, Md.; Montgomery County, Md.; Arlington County, Va.; Fairfax County, Va.; Denver, Colo.; Atlanta, Ga.; and Honolulu.

The health care giant and Community Solutions announced their partnership at the SXSW (South by Southwest) Conference in Austin, Texas. Last year, Kaiser created a $200 million impact investment fund known as the Thriving Communities Fund aimed at addressing homelessness, affordable housing and other issues related to the housing crisis.

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Cathie Anderson covers health care for The Bee. Growing up, her blue-collar parents paid out of pocket for care. She joined The Bee in 2002, with roles including business columnist and features editor. She previously worked at papers including the Dallas Morning News, Detroit News and Austin American-Statesman.


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