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'Safe housing is a key determinant of health': $590K to help severely ill, unhoused people

ShelterCare. (SBG)

EUGENE, Ore. - Kaiser Permanente Northwest and PeaceHealth have partnered with ShelterCare to support people who are homeless and battling severe mental health or medical issues.

The healthcare firms contributed $590,000 for the creation of a transitional housing program through ShelterCare.

The program will provide "emergency, short-term housing to Lane County residents who are homeless and battling severe mental illness or medical conditions," the participants said in a statement.

"It's extraordinarily difficult to move people off the street into permanent housing just because you can't find them, they're lives are chaotic," expalined Susan Ban, executive director of ShelterCare.

ShelterCare will start moving people into units the organization is already leasing in the community, most likely starting in January.

"Some of the referrals will come from the hospital, like the behavioral health unit," Ban said. "Some of the referrals will come from a medical recouperation unit."

The goal is to serve 30 people over the course of the year.

"We are embarking on this very critical endeavor to meet a very critical need in our community. And, it's through powerful collaborations such as this that we are to provide bridge housing for this vulnerable population until permanent housing can be secured. This is important because safe, affordable housing has been proven to increase opportunities for positive health outcomes," said Rand O'Leary, chief executive, PeaceHealth Oregon. "This is about access - access to housing, medical care, behavioral health support and other services."

"Safe housing is a key determinant of health," said Imelda Dacones, MD, president and CEO, Northwest Permanente, P.C. "There are too many people who end up in the hospital sicker than they would have been because of lack of housing."

The target population suffers mental illness, substance abuse or chornic disease.

"All of those different factors make their lives particularly vulnerable to the elements," Ban said, "so we want to get those most vulnerable people off the street."

The goal is simple.

"You're able to get a good night's sleep, you're able to have three meals a day, you can see your primary care provider because you have a place to be and somebody can pick you up and take you there, you can stay on medications because you have a sink, a glass of water you can take your pills and you can relax," Ban said. "Conditions don't necessarily go away, but quality of life improves immensely once you have a house."

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