PORTLAND, Ore. — With temperatures dropping, the arrival of flu season, and an increase in COVID-19 cases in our community, organizations that serve people who are experiencing homelessness are facing new challenges. To help protect our most vulnerable community members, Kaiser Permanente has awarded a total of $700,000 to 7 organizations in the Northwest to strengthen COVID-19 prevention and response across our region.
Oregon has the nation’s second-highest rate of unsheltered homeless. While the homeless population hasn’t been as hard-hit by COVID-19 as expected, there’s concern that infection rates could increase as fall and winter weather hits. With limited capacity and shelter options, some organizations worry about how they will address a potential increase in need.
“Like the medical community, our community partners have had to dramatically shift the way they deliver services,” said Jeff Collins, regional president for Kaiser Permanente of the Northwest. “Kaiser Permanente wants to ensure it can continue with critical programs over the winter months that help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and improve the health of our communities,” he said.
“Love Overwhelming and its many volunteers are leading community efforts to suppress COVID-19 among people experiencing homelessness in Cowlitz County,” said Chuck Hendrickson, founder and executive director of Love Overwhelming. “With Kaiser Permanente’s support, we will be able to increase our support, capacity, and supplies to monitor for symptoms in our shelters, as well as with those we serve living on the streets, helping to reduce the spread of COVID.”
Grantees represent Kaiser Permanente’s Northwest service area from Cowlitz County, Washington, to Lane County in Oregon. Each of the following grantees will receive $100,000 for COVID-19 prevention and response.
This vital funding will enable our community partners to respond to specific local needs and enhance coordination and build capacity among the continuum of care, local public health departments, and health care providers for the homeless. Funds will be used to provide motel vouchers, to ensure community clinics are safe and can treat patients, and to support prevention and testing programs, street outreach, and more.
"Since our founding in 2018 we have never cancelled a single outreach shift, regardless of weather or holidays. Despite this year's global pandemic and wildfire crisis, our teams have been in the streets bringing care directly to our unhoused neighbors,” said Molly Pringle, executive director for Portland Street Medicine. “We are grateful to Kaiser Permanente for the financial support and ongoing commitment to caring for our homeless communities. This generous grant will support our care coordination efforts so we can adapt quickly to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and continue to care for people on the streets."
“As long as housing remains a critical issue in Oregon, we will continue to spearhead statewide housing for health initiatives to advance total health,” Collins said.
These grant resources will support the Council for the Homeless as it leads community efforts in Clark County to suppress COVID-19 among people experiencing homelessness. Funding will supplement existing programs and partnerships, including motel vouchers for households experiencing houselessness to safely distance, as well as pay for basic needs and housing access support and prevention at shelters and encampments.
Love Overwhelming will continue to lead community efforts to suppress COVID-19 among people experiencing homelessness in Cowlitz County. The grant will increase capacity for support, supplies, and symptom monitoring for people in shelters, in transitional housing, and living on the streets.
This flexible funding will be deployed to nonprofit partners to augment existing community partnerships, such as support for street outreach teams, services at the county’s COVID-19 shelter, and quarantine motel vouchers.
As part of its partnership with the Joint Office of Homeless Services, PSM is providing COVID-19 information, “survival kits,” and support to people living on the streets, in encampments, and in shelters. Additionally, PSM is providing outreach and direct support to people experiencing homelessness in the county’s isolation support motels (120-room capacity). This grant will support PSM’s medical director and operations director roles, which oversee care coordination for the medical motels, as well as PSM’s ongoing outreach efforts to support people on the streets during COVID-19.
This grant will support 2 projects with monitoring to prevent COVID-19 transmission. The Safe Sleep Village is a sanctioned tent program to serve 50 houseless persons. The county is also planning a winter shelter network, which will provide 150 beds of congregate shelter. For Safe Sleep Village, DHS is working with Washington County Health and Human Services to bring substance use disorder, mental health, and housing case management services on-site, but currently lacks funding to provide COVID-19 support. This funding will also allow staff to provide wellness checks and symptom monitoring at the county’s 5 winter shelters.
These grant resources will support Northwest Human Services in its work with Marion and Polk county public health departments to suppress COVID-19 among people experiencing homelessness in Marion and Polk counties. This funding will supplement and align with existing COVID-19 suppression and testing efforts including access to testing and support for clients, staff, and volunteers at the adult and youth day centers, transitional housing, and/or the health clinic.
White Bird will make 2 of its new exam rooms negative-pressure rooms, as part of a larger project to upgrade its facility and add physical capacity to safely diagnose and treat individuals with symptoms consistent with COVID-19. This will enable White Bird to provide primary care to patients who otherwise have few options besides urgent care or emergency department treatment. Offering care on-site will allow White Bird to better coordinate care for these individuals, strengthen partnerships with referring agencies and organizations, and help coordinate community efforts to suppress COVID-19 among people experiencing homelessness in Lane County.
For 75 years, Kaiser Permanente has been committed to shaping the future of health and health care — and helping our members, patients, and communities experience more healthy years. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Since July 21, 1945, Kaiser Permanente’s mission has been to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 12.4 million members in 8 states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists, and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery, and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education, and the support of community health.