Kaiser Pledges $25M to California Housing Fund

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Calling California's homeless crisis a public health issue, hospital giant Kaiser Permanente on Friday pledged $25 million to a new state fund aimed at getting people off the streets.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order last week creating what he proposes to be a $750 million fund that providers could use to pay rents, subsidize affordable housing or help board and care homes.

Kaiser said its donation is one of the first of its kind from the private sector.

"Safe and stable housing is key to a person's physical, mental and social health," said Greg Adams, CEO of the Oakland-based nonprofit health care company. "Chronic homelessness has been shown to cut 27 years from the average lifespan and is associated with communicable diseases such as hepatitis and typhus, increased hospitalizations, and frequent readmissions."

The governor's office didn't immediately comment on Kaiser's pledge. It came a day after Newsom wrapped up a statewide tour promoting his plan to combat spiking homelessness in the nation's most populous state.

Last week, the governor declared himself California's "homeless czar," after promising a year ago to appoint one.

The California Access to Housing and Services Fund is a major part of Newsom's budget proposal that allocates more than $1 billion to address homelessness.

He is seeking another $695 million in state and federal matching funds for preventive health care, but some of that money could also go to helping people find housing.

Newsom has directed the state to provide 100 travel trailers and modular tent structures to cities and counties for use as temporary housing. He ordered state agencies to free surplus state property to house homeless people including alongside highways, in unused health care facilities, and on state fairgrounds.

He's also seeking nearly $25 million for three counties to experiment with putting those who are deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial into community programs instead of state psychiatric hospitals.

Kaiser Permanente is based in Oakland, where it has teamed with the group Bay Area Community Services to house more than 500 homeless adults over 50 years old who are battling chronic health conditions.

Mortality rates among people experiencing chronic homelessness are 3 to 4 times that of the general population, Kaiser estimated.

"Homelessness increases the level and amount of care the health system must provide, even as it limits how successful that care can be. Common conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma are nearly impossible to manage without housing," Kaiser said in a statement.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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