$1 million grant for homeless housing

Sutter Health contributes to holistic effort
By: Michael Mott, Reporter
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Sutter Health is giving $1 million to Placer County to buy housing and rental subsidies for up to 20 homeless people a year.

The donation is going to the county Whole Person Care pilot program and involves purchasing housing units for participants to use.

“These funds would pay for two to three homes,” said County Spokesperson Scott Sandow. Remaining funds will be used to pay for rental subsidies. The homes may be anywhere in the county.

The Whole Person Care Program is a major, five-year pilot powered by $10 million in federal funding, which the county will match by reassigning funds. Placer County was chosen by the state’s Department of Health Care Services to coordinate many facets of care for high-users of emergency rooms.

The program begins in January with a 15-person team of staffers, including members of probation, health and human services and other county agencies. About 150 homeless people are planned to be helped in housing, substance abuse services and other programs they may need. A five-bed respite care center is also planned.

However, funding doesn’t cover housing units directly. Sutter Health’s Keri Thomas, Director of Community and Government Relations for the area, said the pilot program’s mission aligned with Sutter’s.

“We take great pride in being a community-based not for profit health care system. The care we provide outside the walls of the hospital is just as important as inside,” Thomas said.

For the past 12 years, Sutter has been working on partnering with community organizations to help end homelessness, she said. About a year and a half ago, Sutter launched its “Getting to Zero” campaign to bring resources together for a “Housing First” approach to homelessness, drawing from a federal strategy.

“We found early on in our homeless intervention programs, particularly bedside interventions in emergency rooms, that until we got them housing, they weren’t capable of connecting in with a healthy lifestyle,” Thomas said. “They lacked stability and that is very important in every other aspect of health. This will ground people and get them mental health and other supports they need.”

Placer County Public Health Officer Robert Oldham said Sutter was a frequent partner, but that the focus on housing was a new way Sutter was taking the lead.

“Whole Person Care will be much more effective if we have some housing,” Oldham said, whether low or no barrier to it.

While the specifics are being worked out, any money left from the $1 million grant would go to rental subsidies. Affordable housing is defined as housing that costs 30 percent or less of income, Oldham said; So, the subsidies would cover whatever exceeds that amount.

As for the homes purchased with the grant – participants will likely pay as much as they’re able to.

“The specifics aren’t in the agreement, but we want to maximize independence as much as possible,” Oldham said. “Paying rent is ideal, but in some cases, when people are starting out, they might pay little to none.”

Participants will meet with their case managers likely multiple times a week, as care is coordinated around substance abuse, mental health and other services.