CORE's evaluation of Kaiser Permanente's Housing for Health program identified promising impacts on program participants.
Here at CORE, we know that housing and health are inextricably linked; without a safe place to call home, it’s nearly impossible to focus on basic health and medical needs. That’s especially true for people in Pacific Northwest communities who are experiencing mental health challenges or struggling with addictions in the midst of a historic housing affordability crisis.
In 2016, Kaiser Permanente Northwest Community Health awarded $2.2 million to seven nonprofit organizations working to address barriers to health and housing in the region. The Housing for Health program helped launch programs that provide support through Traditional Health Workers, broadly defined as people who work in the community to support those in need. Examples include Community Health Workers (CHWs) and Peer Support Specialists (Peers).
At CORE we’re engaged in a variety of research, evaluation, and cross-sector coalition building efforts that place THWs at the center of new care models and innovative programs. That’s why we were so excited to partner with Kaiser to evaluate this three and a half year initiative’s impact and better understand the population served.
Participating organizations included Catholic Charities, Catholic Community Services, Love Overwhelming, Outside In, Urban League of Portland, ShelterCare and Willamette Family, Inc. Their programs served clients with extensive histories of trauma and instability, as well as deep mistrust of the system. Yet THWs successfully built strong, trusting relationships with participants, in part through their shared lived experience. And they provided comprehensive support, including navigating housing, connecting to healthcare, and connecting to needed resources.
Among other significant findings, the evaluation found people served by this initiative had:
· 50% less chance of staying in inadequate facilities or sleeping on the street/camping
· 26% decreased likelihood of having an ED visit in the past six months
· 35% decreased likelihood of having been arrested in the past six months
In our client interviews, participants described the transformative impact of safe, stable housing, and the value of having THW on their side.
“You can’t really be vulnerable and be honest with people that you can’t relate to or trust. The only way to grow trust is to share experience, and these people have a shared experience that only people that have suffered this issue have.” - Participant
“It’s very indescribable to not have to worry about a place to stay. It’s indescribable to have that security.” - Participant
By employing THWs, bringing together housing and healthcare providers, and advocating for increased funding and services, these community organizations made a difference for some of the most vulnerable people in our region. Participants saw substantially improved outcomes, including less housing instability, continuous health care coverage, decreased arrests, and an improved ability to meet their health care and basic needs. Taken together, the results of this evaluation support placing THWs in programs aimed to serve vulnerable community members and suggest that THWs may be a critical mechanism for improving community outcomes.
To learn more about CORE’s THW work, check out this recent blog post and to read about our extensive housing-related work download our annual report. And don’t hesitate to get in touch to discuss how we can help inform and evaluate your THW-centered programs.