More than 69,000 people experience homelessness in Los Angeles County. With that in mind, two local health plans announced last week that they are committing $114 million to support the unhoused through a project in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative.
L.A. Care Health Plan and Health Net’s commitment will help secure up to 1,900 housing units in the private rental market and fund field assessments to find those who need assistance with Activities of Daily Living (such as feeding and personal hygiene). It will also help pay for vacancy coverage, damage repair, trash services, greenspace, maintenance and pest control. The investment is part of California’s Housing and Homelessness Incentive Program, which allows Medi-Cal managed care plans to receive incentive funds for supporting the unhoused.
“This investment will better support individuals experiencing homelessness and create partnerships with service providers, landlords and plans to help more high need individuals get permanently placed,” said Martha Santana-Chin, Medi-Cal president of Health Net, in an email. “Ultimately, we aim to improve access to housing, stabilize individuals experiencing homelessness and support them on their journey to live healthier lives.
L.A Care is allocating $80 million for the project and Health Net is allocating $34 million. The amount each is committing is based on membership — L.A. Care has 2.8 million members and Health Net has 3 million.
Local, state and federal funding allows for permanent and time-limited housing vouchers, which help those experiencing homelessness receive housing. However, just 65% of those with vouchers are able to lease a unit, and those who are able to lease a unit have to wait 122 days on average, one study showed. This is due to L.A.’s tight rental market, as well as landlord discrimination as many of those with vouchers are people of color, according to a news release. The health plans’ commitment will help the county get more housing units, which could be entire apartment complexes or shared housing with leases that could last three to 10 years.
“Housing is not just a health issue but also an equity issue, since a disproportionate number of homeless individuals are people of color, especially Black/African American Angelenos,” said Dr. Sameer Amin, chief medical officer of L.A. Care Health Plan, in an email.
In addition, the investment will support assessment teams who will visit shelters and housing sites to find those who need help with Activities of Daily Living. Those who do need assistance will be connected with caregiver help or permanent housing.
Santana-Chin of Health Net added that the work will not end with this project.
“This historic partnership is just the beginning of our work to support those experiencing homelessness,” Santana-Chin said. “Eventually, we hope to scale and become a model/evidence-based practice for other programs.”
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