Kaiser announces 3 initiatives to fight homelessness during event with Oakland mayor

OAKLAND (BCN) Kaiser Permanente leaders on Tuesday announced three major initiatives aimed at improving health outcomes by creating stable housing for homeless people in Oakland and across the country.

Bernard Tyson, the chairman and chief executive of Kaiser, which is based in Oakland, said, "Housing security is a crucial health issue for vulnerable populations."

Joined by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and others at a news conference at City Hall, Tyson said, "Access to affordable housing is a key component 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."

One initiative is that Kaiser will spend $5.2 million to buy a 41-unit apartment building in the San Antonio neighborhood in East Oakland.

The money will come from the $200 million, multi-year effort to tackle homelessness called the "Thriving Communities Fund" that Kaiser announced in May.

Kaiser is partnering with Enterprise Community Partners, a Maryland-based nonprofit focused on affordable housing, and the East Asian Local Development Corp. (EBALDC) to ensure that the property gets needed upgrades and is preserved as affordable housing. EBALDC will also provide residents with the opportunity to get supportive social services.

Joshua Simon, EBALDC's executive director, said locating the first investment in the San Antonio neighborhood is important because the neighborhood is one of the most diverse in the city but is undergoing rapid change and is "on the verge of gentrification."

Simon said, "Housing is more than a roof over our heads -- it is central to our health and well-being. We hope this fruitful partnership can serve as a powerful model for Oakland, California and the nation."

The second initiative is a $100 million national fund to support affordable housing development in places where Kaiser Permanente provides care and coverage.

The third initiative is an effort to end homelessness for more than 500 people in Oakland who are over the age of 50 and have at least one chronic condition.

Kaiser officials said Oakland has been hit particularly hard by the housing crisis because homelessness in the city increased by 25 percent between 2015 and 2017.

Tyson said Kaiser, working with a community partner, has identified 500 particularly vulnerable people and is now working with the city, Alameda County and other community partners to secure housing and other vital services for the people on the list.

Schaaf said the initiatives are "groundbreaking" and said, "The health and wellness of Oakland is tied to housing."

The mayor said, "I'm grateful for partners like Kaiser Permanente, EBALDC and Enterprise who are taking a new approach to improving the health outcomes of all our residents by improving housing security for our most vulnerable residents."

Dr. Richard Isaacs, the chief exec and executive director of The Permanente Medical Group, said, "We know that differences in health are striking in communities with poor social determinants of health such as unstable housing, low income and unsafe neighborhoods."

Isaacs said the mortality rates for people who live in such poor conditions are three to four times higher than people who live in more stable environments.

Isaacs said, "We hope that these initiatives in Oakland will become a model for other cities to follow."