Kaiser Permanente is taking Sacramento’s homelessness crisis into its own hands, with a plan to put $32 million toward housing and shelter projects, the health system announced Thursday morning.
Oakland-based Kaiser said it selected Sacramento County in part because it has the third-highest per capita homelessness rate in California, after San Francisco and Los Angeles counties.
"We can't expect people to live stable lives if they don't have a roof over their head," said Dr. Bechara Choucair, Kaiser's chief health officer, at a press conference Thursday morning.
Extending Kaiser's investments into housing and homelessness initiatives is a "no brainer," he added. Choucair said that homeless individuals have a mortality rate three to four times greater than the rest of the population, are likely to die 27 years earlier than the average person and have health care costs that can be three to five times larger.
The majority of the funds, about $25 million, are planned for affordable housing projects in Sacramento County. A portion of the funds are set to preserve 172 affordable units in three Section 8 properties in Sacramento and Rancho Cordova, according to Kaiser.
Kaiser will work with Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Sacramento County leaders to oversee where the rest of the money goes.
The exact locations of the sites in Sacramento and Rancho Cordova were not immediately available.
“Kaiser Permanente has stepped up big time for our community, and I thank them. The biggest challenge threatening Sacramento’s ongoing renaissance is the growing number of people living outside in unsafe conditions combined with our severe shortage of affordable housing,” Steinberg said.
The health system plans to also put another $5 million toward expanding emergency shelter capacity in Sacramento. Those funds are expected to cover the operating costs for a 100-bed women's shelter planned in Meadowview and another shelter planned near the W-X Freeway at Broadway and Alhambra Boulevard.
Another $2 million would be invested in a national initiative by the nonprofit, Community Solutions, to “support systems of change working with cities, counties and other key stakeholders,” according to a news release.
“Housing insecurity has a negative impact on health and will require an all-hands-on-deck approach to solving this problem,” said Greg Adams, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, in a prepared statement. “Our mission to improve the health of our members and their communities demands that Kaiser Permanente continues to lead, support and catalyze others to address the public health issue of homelessness and housing insecurity.”
Kaiser has been investing heavily in housing and homelessness initiatives.
A year ago, the health system said it would invest $3 million over three years to fight homelessness in the Sacramento region and 14 other areas across the country. By January, Kaiser donated another $25 million to a new housing fund initiated by Gov. Gavin Newsom. The fund is part of a $750 million housing initiative announced with the governor’s 2020-21 budget. It is intended to pay rent for people who are homeless or at risk of losing their housing, create more affordable housing units and stabilize board and care facilities.
Kaiser's $25 million donation is part of its $200 million "Thriving Communities Fund" which launched in 2018 to take on housing instability and homelessness. Kaiser used $50 million from that fund last year to establish a $100 million loan in partnership with another nonprofit to safeguard rental homes for low-income residents, gave $5.2 million to keep a 41-unit apartment building in Oakland affordable and partnered with local nonprofits and governments to house more than 500 people in Oakland, the San Francisco Business Times reported.
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