When the COVID-19 virus began spreading last spring, the estimated 151,000 people living in cars, tents, and on the streets of California faced another dire risk to their health. Because many people experiencing homelessness are older adults and many have underlying chronic conditions, they are at increased risk for severe illness if infected.
Sixty-three-year-old Patricia Maes was living outside at the time, sleeping near a San Jose park, and undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She was terrified she would catch COVID-19 and die.
Recognizing the urgency of limiting the spread of the virus, Kaiser Permanente awarded a $25 million dollar grant to the national affordable housing nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners to work in partnership with the State of California to support the state’s Homekey program.
Homekey was created to help people like Maes. It provided funding to cities and counties to buy and rehab hotels, motels, and vacant apartment buildings to convert them into interim or permanent long-term housing for people experiencing homelessness.
The Kaiser Permanente funding is a game changer for putting vulnerable Californians on a pathway to safe, affordable, and healthy homes” – James Yelen, a program director for Enterprise Community Partners in Northern California