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Kaiser Permanente commits $1.5 million to help nonprofits curb COVID-19 among homeless

Kaiser Permanente has awarded $1.5 million in grants to 11 Southern California nonprofits to help curb the spread of COVID-19 among the region’s expanding homeless population.

The money targets people who access homeless shelters and have an increased risk of developing and transmitting the virus because of their living conditions. Homeless shelters and other supportive-service locations are often faced with limited staffing and resources, and outbreaks can further strain their operations.

Kaiser’s funding will help support collaboration between social service and homeless healthcare providers and local agencies as they seek to prevent further spread of the virus.

The following 11 nonprofits will receive grants:

  • Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority —  $200,000
  • Chrysalis (Los Angeles) — $150,000
  • United States Veterans Initiative (Long Beach) — $150,000
  • Martin Luther King Community Hospital (Los Angeles) — $100,000
  • Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission for the San Fernando Valley — $100,000
  • Volunteers of America Los Angeles — $100,000
  • Mercy House (Santa Ana) — $200,000
  • Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino County (San Bernardino) — $100,000
  • City of Riverside, Office of Homeless Solutions — $100,000
  • PATH San Diego — $200,000
  • Bakersfield Kern Regional Homeless Collaborative (Bakersfield) — $100,000.

“We reached out to community partners we knew were doing good work in this space,” said  Elizabeth Trombley, regional manager of community health for Kaiser Permanente Southern California. “We wanted to support organizations that are working to mitigate the spread of the virus among people who are experiencing homelessness.”

An official 2019 tally from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development counted more than 151,000 homeless people in California, and some estimates say 90,000 are in Southern California.

The HomeAid Orange County Family CareCenter, operated by Mercy House, is an emergency shelter located in Orange. (Photo courtesy of Mercy House)

Putting the money to work

Erik Miller, executive director for the United States Veterans Initiative in Long Beach, said the $150,000 his agency received will be put to good use although it won’t go as far as it would have pre-pandemic.

“In the face of COVID-19 we’ve had to invest in a lot more PPE (personal protective equipment),” he said. “That, and the other extra safety precautions we’ve had to put in place because of the pandemic, have caused our per-vet costs to drastically rise.”

The Veterans Initiative provides transitional and permanent housing, counseling and workforce training and development for U.S. military veterans.

Mercy House, an Orange County-based nonprofit, plans to funnel its cash infusion into several areas. Mercy House provides temporary and permanent housing and services for the homeless, as well as people with AIDS and others who are overcoming substance or are physically or mentally disabled.

“These dollars will be used to expand our shelter and housing operations,” CEO Larry Haynes said. “It will also help us further develop our infrastructure and staffing resources.”

With operations throughout Southern California, Mercy House has nearly 1,100 emergency shelter beds and about 1,200 permanent housing units.

Containing the spread

Haynes said his agency has seen clients with COVID-19, although Mercy’s health and safety protocols have kept the potential spread to a minimum.

“It’s been relatively limited, but it is something we keep an eye on,” he said. “We’re seeing extra demand for our services and we’ve also had to cancel fundraising events because of COVID-19, so we’ve been hit with a double whammy.”

Julie Miller-Phipps, president of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc., and Hospitals of Southern California, said the intersection of homelessness and COVID-19 is a serious issue.

“Many of the communities we serve are grappling with some of the highest costs of housing and the highest rates of homelessness in the United States, leading to significant challenges for the health of our members and residents,” she said.

Source: Orange County Register

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