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Kaiser Permanente Supports Covid-19 Prevention Efforts For People Experiencing Homelessness In Oakland

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Dr. Noha Aboelata

Kaiser Permanente is supporting efforts to provide more COVID-19 testing to people experiencing homelessness in Oakland and raising awareness about how to prevent the further spread of the virus in the community.

A $150,000 grant to Roots Community Health Center – a full-service primary care clinic headquartered in East Oakland – will enhance the center’s Oakland Street Team Outreach Medical Program or STOMPTM. Oakland STOMP provides medical treatment and outreach services to people experiencing chronic homelessness who don’t otherwise have access to medical care.

The Kaiser Permanente funding will add one additional person to the Oakland STOMP team, which will allow the medical team to reach more individuals. The team consists of a physician, medical assistant/phlebotomist, and outreach worker. The grant will help the team provide more COVID-19 testing, flu vaccinations, and hand out more supplies such as masks and hand sanitizer to help prevent community spread of COVID-19.

Founded in 2008, Roots Community Health Center serves about 6,000 individuals a year in Oakland and offers a variety of medical and wrap-around services for people without other access to health care.

“It’s critical that we have this additional support for people who are unsheltered because there is so much more of a need now among our homeless population,” said Dr. Noha Aboelata, Roots’ chief executive officer. “To have our team supported with more materials and more staffing is crucial to helping us do more COVID-19 education and linkages to services during this time of need.”

Aboelata said the COVID-19 positivity rate is already high in East Oakland and is currently on the rise. Some of the most serious COVID outbreaks occur within congregate living settings such as shelters, Aboelata said. She added that the Kaiser Permanente funding will help provide the information and resources needed to contain some of the spread of the virus.

This is one of 14 grants Kaiser Permanente recently awarded to nonprofits and government agencies that serve homeless people in Northern California. Kaiser Permanente recognizes that individuals and families experiencing homelessness are at greater risk for COVID-19 because without a stable place to live, it’s nearly impossible to maintain good health.

Affordable housing and homelessness are a significant focus for Kaiser Permanente because housing security is crucial for a person’s physical and mental health. Kaiser Permanente has taken significant steps to preserve affordable housing, prevent homelessness, and house vulnerable seniors in our Northern California communities including:

· Since 2019, making impact investments of nearly $35 million to support the purchase of 37 properties in Northern California, ensuring that some 3,300 units of housing in those buildings remains affordable.

· Partnering with the San Francisco Foundation, a trio of nonprofit agencies, and the City of Oakland to launch Keep Oakland Housed. The program provides legal representation, emergency financial help, and supportive services to prevent Oakland residents from losing their housing and has served more than 3,000 households since its launch in 2018.

· Partnering with Bay Area Community Services in 2019 to house 515 formerly homeless seniors with a chronic health condition or disability.

· Investing $25 million in Project Homekey, a statewide initiative to turn underutilized hotels and motels across the state into interim and permanent housing.

“Kaiser Permanente recognizes stable housing is key to preventing the spread of COVID-19 among some of the most vulnerable residents in our community,” said Ed Chan, senior vice president, and area manager for Kaiser Permanente’s East Bay Service Area. “We are proud to support Roots Community Health Center as they increase access to medical care and expand COVID-19 testing among those experiencing chronic homelessness.”

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