Health systems give $100,000 to help homeless

Posted at 1:02 PM, Jul 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-29 21:15:39-04

Boise’s two major health care systems will join the City of Boise and other partners in providing services in support of 40 possible new units of permanent supportive housing for those in the community experiencing chronic homelessness.

Saint Alphonsus Health System and St. Luke’s Health System will each contribute $100,000 to the community’s Housing First initiatives, what’s being called an evidence-based approach to addressing chronic homelessness.

Housing First focuses on moving people experiencing chronic homelessness into permanent housing and then providing “wrap-around” support and services, like mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment and financial counseling, officials said. The health systems’ commitment of funding will be used to establish the “wrap-around” support and services essential for helping the chronically homeless address the root causes of their homelessness.

“Housing First’s viability as an effective tool for helping our most vulnerable residents requires broad community involvement, especially from those that directly interact with or provide services to those experiencing homelessness in our community,” said Boise Mayor David Bieter.  “Providing those ‘wrap-around’ services is the most complex part of this effort and I couldn’t think of better investors and partners than the two most important members of our medical community.”

Research by Boise State University shows those experiencing chronic homelessness cost the Boise community at least $5.3 million a year in services, criminal justice costs and medical costs, reports said. The estimated cost of providing permanent supportive housing options –- like Housing First -– is approximately $1.6 million for 100 residents annually.

“Health has so many dimensions, and for us to overlook housing and social components would not be in keeping with St. Luke’s mission,” said St. Luke’s Health System President and CEO Dr. David Pate. “We are thrilled to work with the City, Saint Alphonsus and our other community partners on this vital project.”
Saint Alphonsus and St. Luke’s are participants in the Roundtable on Housing and Homelessness, which identified Housing First as a key priority for the community last fall. Chaired by Mayor Bieter, the ongoing Roundtable on Housing and Homelessness includes more than forty members representing the community’s non-profit and corporate sectors, advocacy groups, the faith community, and federal, state, county and city levels of government.

“The Saint Alphonsus mission, established by our founding sisters over 100 years ago, calls us to serve the most vulnerable people in our community,” said Saint Alphonsus Health System President and CEO Rodney Reider. “The Housing First initiative helps fulfill our call to social justice by assisting those faced with the extreme health challenges that accompany homelessness. We are proud to be collaborating with outstanding local partners to address this issue in a meaningful way.”

In February, the City of Boise was joined by the Idaho Housing and Finance Association, the Boise City/Ada County Housing Authority, CATCH, Inc., and Terry Reilly Health Services, in announcing the Housing First initiative, which could include ‘single site’ and ‘scattered site’ models.

“Idaho Housing and Finance Association is delighted to be part of this important community partnership that will help serve homeless families and individuals in our community,” said Gerald Hunter, president and executive director of IHFA.

Both IHFA and the City of Boise are committing significant financial resources, while the other partners are contributing funding, services and expertise, to ensure the project’s viability. 

In addition to the funding pledge by the health systems, the Ada County Commission is considering a $250,000 contribution to Housing First as part of its current fiscal year 2017 budgeting process.