$2.27 Million in Grants from Kaiser Permanente will Help People With Mental Illness Find and Sustain Housing

Fifteen community health workers will offer a helping hand to reduce homelessness

PORTLAND, Ore. – Kaiser Permanente Northwest is awarding grants to seven nonprofit agencies across the region, from Cowlitz to Lane counties, to support unique programs that engage community health workers and peer counselors in helping people with mental illness and addiction disorders find and sustain housing.

The $2.27 million in grants follows a $4 million contribution announced in September in support of the “Housing Is Health” initiative that will build 380 units of housing in Portland with Central City Concern, including 175 units of medically supported housing. Kaiser Permanente has also partnered with several other local health care providers to create the new Unity Center for Behavioral Health, which opens this month.

“As we looked at the challenges facing people with mental illness in our community, we heard repeatedly that lack of stable housing is the most critical need,” said Andrew McCulloch, president, Northwest, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals. “But not only do they need housing, they need help getting into and maintaining housing in the first place. Without both types of support, it is virtually impossible for people with mental health and addiction issues to attain successful treatment.”

Seven nonprofit agencies will receive $325,000 over three years to deploy strategies with a personal touch. Each agency has also been asked to identify policy and advocacy efforts for changes that will help bring an end to homelessness for people with mental illness and addiction disorders.

Community health workers and peer support/wellness specialists are able to build meaningful relationships to help people reach their recovery and health goals. Through coaching, mentoring, teaching, listening and caring, they can be role models who encourage self-esteem and self-confidence while sharing specific knowledge and promoting skills.

The grants were announced at a press conference held at the Transition Projects Clark Center during a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day service project by Kaiser Permanente volunteers. The Clark Center provides shelter and housing short-term housing and support services to homeless men.

“On this day of service, it is an honor to connect people who have a passion for helping our community’s most vulnerable members with the resources, training and strategies they need to be effective,” said McCulloch.

Each of the following grant recipients has developed its own unique way of deploying community health workers and advocating for people with mental illness and addiction:

Urban League of Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon: Urban League will help households affected by chronic homelessness become housed, healthy and empowered as advocates for systemic change. A peer support specialist (addiction and recovery) and a peer wellness specialist (mental health) will join the Housing Support Team. Contact: Julia Delgado, 503-995-2675, jdelgado@ulpdx.org

Outside In, Multnomah County, Oregon: Outside In and NAYA will partner to serve homeless youth, 18 to 25 years old, experiencing behavioral health challenges. Community health workers will work hand in hand with these youth, supporting them to find, stabilize and maintain housing. Contact: Heather Brown, 503-535-3805, hb@outsidein.org

Catholic Charities of Oregon, Multnomah County, Oregon: Catholic Charities will help homeless women with severe mental illness and substance use disorders secure and retain housing through integrated housing, health care and behavioral health support provided by peer support specialists. Catholic Charities will partner with NAMI Oregon to provide empowerment trainings and advocacy opportunities for participants to share their stories. Contact: Margi Dechenne, 503-688-2670, mdechenne@ccoregon.org

Catholic Community Services of the Mid-Willamette Valley and Central Coast, Marion County, Oregon: Catholic Community Services will train community health workers, provide housing support services in nine low-income neighborhoods in Marion County, and advocate for statewide policy changes to increase the number of affordable housing units. Contact: Maureen Casey, 503-510-0151, maureencasey@ccswv.org

Love Overwhelming, Cowlitz County, Washington: Peer support case managers will provide intensive community services to high-need households to help them locate, obtain and retain safe, affordable housing. Love Overwhelming will partner with others to advocate for homeless shelters, affordable housing and improved policies related to people being released from prison. Contact: Chuck Hendrickson, 360-749-8056, chendrickson@loveoverwhelming.org

ShelterCare, Lane County, Oregon: ShelterCare will provide training to property managers to support their efforts to work with tenants with behavioral health challenges, and refer tenants at risk for eviction to community health workers for assistance. Project partners include Trauma Healing Project, Cornerstone Community Housing, Laurel Hill Center and the Housing and Community Services Agency of Lane County. Contact: Susan Ban, 541-686-1262, sban@sheltercare.org

Willamette Family, Inc., Lane County, Oregon: Willamette Family will work to help people with behavioral health challenges find and maintain stable housing by training community health workers, providing case management, delivering a rental rehabilitation program, and advocating for statewide policy changes for prolonged case management and peer-delivered services. Contact: Eva Williams, 541-762-4526, evaw@wfts.org