For the past year, an ambitious experiment has taken place in Oregon that could lead to new standards for effectively addressing the health needs of elderly and disabled people with low incomes. Dubbed Housing with Services, the program aims to improve quality of life and health for 1,400 low-income residents of downtown Portland.
The project has received $1.5 million in grant funding, including $440,000 in federal innovation grant funds through the Oregon Health Authority and $430,000 from the Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation. Enterprise Communities also supported this project with a $75,000 grant targeting vulnerable populations and a HEDCO Foundation grant of $60,000 went toward the Care Center's construction. Other funders included FamilyCare and Providence Health & Services.
The Weinberg Foundation has worked on housing issues for a while, but this appears to be a new advancement for its work, breaking down silos between two program areas that they cover—disability and housing. The idea, here, is to help residents of subsidized housing in Oregon avoid costly emergency room care as well as nursing home placement. "Health navigators"—professionals specially trained in obtaining the best care for people with special needs—have been working with residents to help them get better care and age in place, rather than moving to long-term institutionalization.
This work takes a great deal of community collaboration, so after a needs assessment is conducted, different levels of care are explored to address those needs. In all, 20 different organizations partnered in the pilot of this initiative, including hospitals, home care agencies, and agencies addressing specific populations, such as Asian communities.
In 2012, Weinberg opened up its support of capital projects to national grantmaking, and a project like Housing With Services seems well aligned with this new broadening of support. With this pilot likely to produce some data soon, this may be an opportunity for other housing and health services development professionals to approach this funder in their community.
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