Foundations of health | Housing and homelessness
Every three years, hospitals across the Providence family of organizations collaborates with like-minded partners, including local nonprofits, social services, and agencies, to conduct a community health needs assessment. The findings from these analyses help our entire organization better understand the greatest areas of need. Housing instability and homelessness are consistently identified as leading community challenges.
Using this data, we partner with community organizations that make a lasting impact on people’s lives by improving access to safe and affordable housing. Our community partners target the root causes of homelessness and housing insecurity to better identify effective ways to prevent homelessness, including prioritizing early interventions for people at risk of losing their housing.
At Providence, we believe that safe, secure housing is essential to health and well-being, and we strive to create ongoing, strategic partnerships with a holistic approach to serving those disproportionately affected by housing instability.
First launched in 2015, Community Solutions began as a small network of cities and counties committed to ending chronic homelessness, with a particular focus on veteran populations. Through its Built for Zero initiative, Community Solutions forms partnerships with local governments, health care providers and other nonprofits to better understand the landscape and get people the services they need.
In 2021, the St. Joseph Community Partnership Fund invested $270,000 to advance Built for Zero across the Providence family of organizations.
In Alaska, Providence Alaska Medical Center has long supported the partnership between Community Solutions and Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness to achieve Built for Zero. The initiative tracks how individuals experiencing homelessness interact with the system. Program staff regularly monitor this data to identify how many people are experiencing homelessness at a given point in time. They can then coordinate with the individuals to obtain appropriate services.
Community Solutions makes sure its approach is right-sized to fit each community’s readiness. For example, some communities need a physical housing unit built immediately to help their unhoused neighbors. Others benefit from grassroots advocacy and partnerships with local elected officials to garner support for effective public policy or to implement Built for Zero in their community.
Building on the success of Built for Zero’s model and our best practices, in 2021 Providence's strategic grantmaking partner, St. Joseph Community Partnership Fund, invested in and led an expansion of Built for Zero’s approach across Providence’s geographic footprint. This is a systemic change to how we respond to homelessness. Next, a team at Covenant Health in Lubbock has partnered with Community Solutions in ways that meet the unique needs of people experiencing homelessness in West Texas. Other regions in the Providence family of organizations are currently evaluating the best way to adopt this model.
In Lubbock, Covenant Health supports Open Door, a local nonprofit organization working to cultivate community and opportunity for people across the region experiencing homelessness and poverty. Using a community-based model, the Open Door team creates a welcoming and supportive environment for people to access self-care, hygiene and first aid services. In 2021, Covenant Health provided an $88,000 community benefit wellness grant to Open Door to support its permanent supportive housing program and community center.
The permanent supportive housing program prioritizes housing first, in tandem with wrap-around services that meet basic human and social needs. This program helps people get on their feet so they are better prepared to reach their employment and education goals. The permanent supportive housing program served 85 individuals in 2021.
In 2021, the permanent supportive housing program operated by Open Door in Lubbock, Texas, served 85 individuals. Covenant Health supported this partner with an $88,000 community benefit wellness grant.
Jeff*, an individual who had been experiencing homelessness for a number of years, accessed Open Door’s community center on a regular basis. Staff took the time to conduct a coordinated entry assessment to identify needs and help Jeff obtain an ID and other necessary documents for securing housing. In June 2021, Jeff moved into his own apartment through Open Door’s permanent supportive housing program. Now he only visits the community center when he wants to see old friends, rather than out of necessity.
Providence understands that affordable housing and support services must go together so that vulnerable people can live healthier lives. For people experiencing a health crisis and housing insecurity, it is critical that they can rest safely and recuperate after an illness or injury. The best solution is to combine permanent supportive housing, recuperative care and respite care so that our caregivers can respond quickly to community needs and gaps in care.
The Supportive Housing and Recuperative Care Program, known as SHARC, is an interdisciplinary program that promotes stability and community through comprehensive and coordinated care. An integrated team of health and social professionals - such as nurses, social workers, psychiatrists, nutritionists, legal advisors, and spiritual care providers - come together to remove barriers for people experiencing homelessness. Through SHARC, individuals gain access to permanent supportive living units in the same facility where they receive health care and social services. There are also designated respite and recuperative units for people managing a health crisis or recovery.
In 2021, Providence's Supportive Housing team acquired The Humboldt Inn, a motel in Eureka, Calif., and developed plans to create an integrated care location. The motel will be turned into the first SHARC facility and construction is expected to be completed in 2023.
Providence has committed $3.75 million to a supportive housing and recuperative care location in Humboldt County, Calif.
Housing instability and homelessness are high priorities in every community we serve. We are proud to partner with community organizations that work to address housing first, in conjunction with other health care needs such as behavioral health and chronic disease management. We continue our longstanding work alongside our many partners committed to upholding the dignity of our dear neighbors and helping them find safe, affordable housing.
*The individual’s name has been changed for privacy.