SEATTLE — Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington has invested in 5 nonprofit organizations to help address the needs of community members experiencing housing insecurity or homelessness. The grants are focused on reducing the spread and impacts of COVID-19 among this vulnerable population and developing long-term solutions. More than 22,000 people in Washington state experience homelessness on any given night. Their reliance on communal shelters and limited access to hygiene facilities puts them at high risk of contracting or transmitting the coronavirus. The funding also supports long-term solutions to combat the affordable housing shortage while helping improve health outcomes and social and economic stability.
“We know that housing and health are inseparably linked,” said David C. Grossman, MD, MPH, senior associate medical director for community health and external relations for Kaiser Permanente in Washington. “The pandemic has made that connection even more pronounced. Addressing the needs of community members experiencing homelessness advances the health and safety of everyone.”
Kaiser Permanente is contributing a total $1,050,000 to Community Solutions, a national nonprofit, and to regional nonprofits, including Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, the City of Spokane to support the City’s healthy sheltering program, and Catholic Community Services of Western Washington. Not only are the service providers critical to addressing the needs of the housing-insecure population, they are adapting their operations to minimize the spread of COVID-19 among their clients, staff, volunteers, and communities. These measures include advocacy, outreach and education to impacted people, implementing physical distancing measures, ensuring adequate protective equipment, and providing quarantine sites.
To date, COVID-19 has put significant strain on their resources and staff capacity, underscoring the importance of outside funds as both the housing and health crises intensify. The funding from Kaiser Permanente will directly support services estimated to reach more than 22,000 people.
In addition to the focus on the prevention and spread of COVID-19, funding to Community Solutions and a second grant to the Spokane Continuum of Care will support infrastructure to eliminate chronic homelessness in Spokane and other communities in Washington.
“This funding comes at a critical time, as we see a surge in COVID-19 cases and increased need with colder winter weather,” Denny Hunthausen, agency director at Catholic Community Services, said. “Keeping our most medically-fragile people sheltered during this prolonged health crisis is a priority that Kaiser Permanente’s investment is enabling us to maintain.”
Michelle Merriweather, president and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, stated, “Kaiser Permanente’s support is helping us extend our reach further into South King County, targeting the most marginalized communities and those hardest hit by COVID-19. Our goal goes beyond providing a roof over someone’s head. We’re working to put people on a path to self-sufficiency.”
Dr. Grossman added, “This is an investment in community health, supporting organizations that are a lifeline to thousands, not only during this public health crisis, but into the future to ensure that everyone in our communities has access to a safe, healthy, and stable place to live.”
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.