November 8, 2022

A shared goal: Ending homelessness in California

Where you live impacts your health. With a new $1.5 million grant, we’re supporting cities and organizations in their efforts to increase safe, affordable housing.

With the help of a program funded in part by Kaiser Permanente, Mercy House successfully applied for (and received) state funding for a supportive housing project.

Eduardo C. is a proud parent and grandparent. He also has a mental illness that causes him to hear voices.

His mental health condition, combined with drug and alcohol addiction, contributed to the ending of his 12-year marriage. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he became homeless.

He found help through a California program designed to connect people in need to temporary housing. He moved into a place called Casa Aliento in Oxnard, California.

There, he not only has a safe, stable place to live, he also has access to support services, including mental health care and substance use disorder treatment.

Funding for places like Casa Aliento

Casa Aliento is a 70-unit, 2-story housing community; it used to be a motel. It’s run by Mercy House, an organization that provides housing and supportive services to adults and families experiencing homelessness in Arizona and California.

The state of California’s Project Homekey program offers grants for housing initiatives like Casa Aliento. However, completing the application process can be challenging for non-profit organizations such as Mercy House.

Mercy House successfully navigated the Homekey application with the help of a program funded in part by Kaiser Permanente. The program, available through Enterprise Community Partners, connects housing organizations like Mercy House to technical assistance.

“Affordable housing can be very complex, and it can take many years to assemble the financing,” said Linda Wilson, chief housing officer at Mercy House. “Homekey is a significant program that streamlines the process for acquiring a site and operating a housing program like Casa Aliento.”

In 2021, Kaiser Permanente awarded a $1.5 million grant to Enterprise Community Partners for its technical assistance program. The grant is ensuring organizations like Mercy House as well as under-resourced cities, counties, and tribal governments get the help they need to apply for Homekey funds.

The tenants have created their own sense of community, which is a perfect mindset to have when transitioning into housing. They take pride in it.


Expanding efforts

Mercy House is operating Casa Aliento thanks to Project Homekey funding. Its residents have started a community garden.

“This is our first housing facility like this, and it’s been a great experience. The tenants have created their own sense of community, which is a perfect mindset to have when transitioning into housing,” said Dolores Suafoa, program manager for Casa Aliento. “They take pride in it.”

Moving forward, Mercy House and its development partner, Community Development Partners (CDP) are aiming to turn Casa Aliento into permanent supportive housing, a process that would involve renovating the rooms to include kitchenettes.

The success of Casa Aliento inspired Mercy House and CDP to apply for additional Homekey funding for a project in Costa Mesa. The new site — scheduled to open in fall 2023 — will provide permanent supportive housing to 40 people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, including veterans and people with severe mental illness.

Housing for health

Safe, stable housing is critical to good health. That’s why we at Kaiser Permanente lead efforts to end homelessness and preserve affordable housing across the country.

So far, our Enterprise Community Partners grant has helped 25 organizations, cities, counties, and tribal governments throughout California access $2.75 billion in state Homekey funding.

One of those cities is Modesto. After receiving help with its Homekey application, the city secured a $3.9 million grant. With the funding, the city will transform a former office building into permanent supportive housing for young adults with low incomes who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The 14-unit combination studio and one-bedroom apartment complex is scheduled to open in January 2023.

“The past few years have highlighted the critical connection between housing and health in both big and small cities,” said Stephanie Ledesma, vice president of community health programs for Kaiser Permanente. “Partnering with Enterprise Community Partners helps organizations access critical public funding to create housing solutions for those most vulnerable in our communities throughout California.”