Oregon - Shelter is more than just a roof

Central City Concern in Portland, Oregon


For Doug Koekkoek, M.D., chief medical officer for Providence in Oregon, "The prescription is an impotent force for good in the absence of a place to live."

Living without a roof over one’s head means more than lacking shelter. A person without an address faces a long list of basic personal and social needs and no easy way to get help. With no home, people are at greater risk for physical and mental health problems, and a loss of hope for the future.

Recognizing that housing and health care are profoundly connected, Providence Oregon joined five other health organizations to donate a combined $21.5 million for the Housing is Health initiative, envisioned and led by Central City Concern. With joint support from these founding members, this groundbreaking program has now built 379 units of supportive housing across three locations in the city. Residents have a secure, affordable place to live as well as voluntary health care and social services to support other basic needs.

 In July 2019, Central City Concern opened the Blackburn Center in Portland, Oregon, powered by donations from six health organizations, including $4 million from Providence.

Most recently, the Blackburn Center opened to offer housing and a range of services. It is the final of three buildings comprising a model for the nation, with best practices in housing and community health to serve those who experience chronic homelessness. Within its six stories are permanent supportive housing, transitional and palliative care housing, and respite care. Designed to serve 3,000 people each year, it will house other services including primary care, mental health and addiction treatment care, employment assistance, housing resources, and a pharmacy.

Central City Concern is a longtime partner of Providence in Oregon with an extensive history of developing innovative and outcome-based strategies to help those in need. “We share a similar focus with Providence on people who need our help. This can be because of individual experiences such as complex medical needs or mental health issues, substance use disorders and adverse childhood experiences, as well as structural factors that perpetuate inequalities. We’ve been able to make a difference for many groups of marginalized people in the city of Portland, and safe, permanent housing has a tremendous impact,” reflects Rachel Solotaroff, M.D., president and CEO of Central City Concern.

“Although housing isn’t the only barrier for these individuals, the lack of stable housing magnifies other barriers. Just as one example, it’s hard to eat fresh, healthy food without reliable access to a refrigerator and stove. Homelessness also complicates chronic medical illnesses such as COPD, diabetes, depression and substance abuse,” says Doug Koekkoek, M.D., chief medical officer for Providence in Oregon.

Research from the Center for Outcomes Research and Education, a national leader in population health research, has drawn deep connections between housing and health care. CORE studies consistently show that the impact of affordable housing leads to better overall health and well-being, better outcomes, and lower overall health care costs.

For residents who will benefit from the new housing and services, what matters most is the ability to live a better, safer life where they no longer have to stress about the basics.

Learn more about Housing is Health.

Learn more about Central City Concern.


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