Oakland, Ca – As part of Kaiser Permanente’s larger commitment to address affordable housing, Bay Area Community Services and Kaiser Permanente today announced an innovative breakthrough partnership that will house 515 aging, homeless individuals in Oakland. Aging on the street is a significant problem in the United States with the average age of Bay Area homeless community members now in the mid-50s.[i]
“Homeless individuals in their 50s are often as vulnerable as much older people,” said Jaime Almanza, executive director of BACS. “That means addressing the rapid increase in the aging homeless population will become more complex as we deal with chronic health issues such as diabetes and hypertension, respiratory illness, arthritis and mental health. This really is a moral issue and we feel compelled to get people off the street. Our partnership with Kaiser Permanente is a bold, exciting move that will help address the growing needs of this aging homeless population by providing long-term housing and transforming individual lives.”
As part of the agreement, Kaiser Permanente will work with BACS to rapidly house a group of 515 frail adults over the age of 50 who have one chronic condition. In turn, BACS will provide comprehensive outreach, housing coordination, landlord development, housing locator and tenancy-sustaining services over the long term.
“The dramatic increase in homelessness on our streets and in our communities is unacceptable,” said Kaiser Permanente chairman and CEO Bernard J. Tyson. “Addressing homelessness is crucial to our mission to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. Our hope is that we can use this solution to expand to more locations and people.”
“It is difficult to thrive and be healthy if you don’t have a roof over your head. Homelessness, chronic health problems, mental illness and substance abuse are often interrelated,” said Janet Liang, regional president for Kaiser Permanente in Northern California. “We know we can’t tackle health in isolation of social conditions, that is why Kaiser Permanente is investing in programs and services to make a deeper, more sustainable impact in the total health of Oakland and our other communities.”
In January, Kaiser Permanente announced the commitment to house the 515 Oakland residents who are over the age of 50 and living with at least one chronic condition. In the last two months, the Kaiser Permanente-BACS partnership has gotten more than 250 aging, unhoused individuals into stable housing with social support services.
The Kaiser Permanente-BACS partnership is an early pilot to gather best practices in how to accelerate getting people off the street.
Successful progress so far is the result of a data-driven, innovative approach in which older, homeless individuals in Oakland were located and identified by name. Working with the city of Oakland, Alameda County and other community organizations, Kaiser Permanente hopes that by solving for this specific unhoused population it will help enhance coordination, inform future work and expand to other populations in Oakland, as well as other communities.
“This is groundbreaking and compassionate work on behalf of our senior residents,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “Kaiser Permanente has consistently shown up for Oakland and partnered to make our city a healthier community for all residents. This latest initiative will help some of our most vulnerable populations by providing adequate housing and alleviating some of the economic and social burden of homelessness.”
Between 2017 and 2019, homelessness in Alameda County soared 43%; while homelessness across all Bay Area counties increased nearly 30%.
“Comprehensive, healthy housing has immense potential to reduce poor health, as well as increase the stability and well-being of our communities,” said Colleen Chawla, director of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency. “This effort will not just provide affordable housing for the aging homeless, but will help our residents lead more healthy, productive lives.”
Homelessness a crisis in the Bay Area
The Bay Area’s homeless crisis ranks among the worst in the United States. According to the Bay Area Council Economic Institute Report, the Bay Area has the third-largest population of people experiencing homelessness (28,200) in the U.S., behind only New York City (76,500) and Los Angeles (55,200). The Bay Area also shelters a smaller proportion of its homeless (33%) than any metropolitan area in the U.S. besides Los Angeles, making the crisis highly visible across the region. The size of the Bay Area’s homeless population, combined with the region’s lack of temporary shelter options and an insufficient supply of supportive housing, desensitizes the public and further contributes to the homeless crisis.