In a collaboration with the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, Kaiser Permanente is providing $1 million to increase capacity for preventing and treating cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, within the nation's homeless population.
People experiencing homelessness are more vulnerable to infectious diseases due to crowded living conditions, challenges in hygiene and sanitation, and underlying chronic conditions.
Despite these risk factors, they are often overlooked during times of emergency, such as the current pandemic, when assistance is most urgent. Homeless service providers are in need of financial support, guidance and protocols so they can safely and directly connect with unhoused people while taking necessary steps to prevent the virus's spread, the health system said last week.
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WHAT'S THE IMPACT?
Destination Home in Santa Clara County, Homeless Health Care Los Angeles, the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, and Central City Concern in Portland, Oregon, have already been named as initial-funding recipients for core support, as these locations have some of the largest homeless populations in the country and have been among the communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
These organizations are leading coordinated response efforts and are already closely connected to the homeless communities in their areas. They're reportedly ready to deploy resources immediately, and the funding support will likely allow them to move more quickly.
NHCHC and Kaiser Permanente will continue to monitor the evolving pandemic and work together to identify specific regional programs across the country to receive the remaining funds.
For 30 years the NHCHC has been working at the nexus of homelessness and healthcare, providing training and assistance for healthcare and service providers, and research and advocacy around solutions to homelessness. The organization is working to disseminate rapidly emerging protocols and information related to COVID-19 to its more than 300 partner organizations working with homeless people in communities across the U.S.
And as millions of Americans face the prospect of losing wages during the pandemic, Kaiser Permanente is joining other organizations to advocate for emergency housing funding from the federal government in the form of rental and mortgage assistance, as well as supplemental funding to housing authorities, housing-assistance providers and homeless navigation services.
THE LARGER TREND
On Friday, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in the coronavirus pandemic.
This opens up billions of additional dollars to fight the virus and allows the Department of Health and Human Services to waive certain Medicare, Medicaid or Children's Health Insurance Program requirements so that hospitals, physicians and other providers may share resources.
Providers needed the Trump Administration to declare a national emergency in order for states to get the Medicaid waivers that would make it easier to sign up poor patients, and for the homeless to get coverage. The American Hospital Association, the American Nurses Association and the American Medical Association, also asked for federal assistance in covering costs for the uninsured to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
ON THE RECORD
"The spread of COVID-19 is putting tremendous stress on our national, state, and local public health departments," said Dr. Bechara Choucair, chief health officer with Kaiser Permanente. "As a leading healthcare system, we must do our part to care for our members as well as our most vulnerable populations. Given the elevated risk faced by people living on the streets or in shelters at this time, we are making it a priority to support outreach, prevention, and treatment for this community."
"At a time when more than a half million Americans live in shelters and on the streets of the richest nation on earth, Kaiser Permanente has stepped up to help fund front-line groups serving people experiencing homelessness whose lives are further imperiled by the novel coronavirus," said Bobby Watts, CEO of NHCHC. "Kaiser Permanente's commitment ensures an immediate impact on the dual epidemics of homelessness and the novel coronavirus during this moment of crisis."