Mercury News: Council Approves Pilot Program for “Tiny Homes” for Homeless

By  | rgiwargis@bayareanewsgroup.com

SAN JOSE — After more than a year of debate, the City Council approved a pilot program Tuesday to build up to three “tiny home” villages for the homeless — but the fight over where to place the unconventional homeless housing rages on.

The council approved the plan 9-2, with Councilmen Johnny Khamis and Donald Rocha opposed, after hundreds of residents and housing advocates packed City Hall to debate where to place the homeless micro-housing.

Residents on Tuesday complained that putting the homeless next to them would increase crime and reduce property values.

“I know people have called our arguments NIMBYish,” said Ashley Sweren, 38, a Thousand Oaks resident of 13 years. “But frankly, this experiment doesn’t belong in anyone’s backyard until the city has run a pilot to ensure this is a manageable, economic and effective solution that is positive and safe.”

The council Tuesday eliminated limitations like keeping the tiny homes 100-150 feet away from houses, schools and parks — at least for now. Tiny home sites now must be at least 0.50 acres or inside a 10,000 square-foot building, with access to transit and utilities. City officials will revisit the matter in 60 days with a list of new potential sites and a detailed plan for outreach to residents.

The tiny sleeping cabins would be just big enough for a bed, window and locking door, but would provide temporary shelter to some of the city’s 4,000 homeless residents. City officials said each tiny home village could house up to 25 people.

Advocates for the homeless urged city leaders to support the plan, which is considered one of San Jose’s most innovative solutions to housing those in need, and to come up with more locations for the homes.

“When did we become so uncompassionate?” said Shirley Stager, 66, who works with several nonprofit agencies including PACT. “I read on Nextdoor people saying ‘Put all the homeless on a bus and take them to a remote area and dump them.’ What have we become?”

When the city began exploring the idea, council members had were asked to suggest sites in each of their districts. But only two did — Khamis and Chappie Jones.

San Jose housing officials identified 99 city-owned sites that met criteria of being city owned or leased land near transit and utilities as potential locations to consider for tiny homes. But after neighbors objected to placing the homeless near them, city officials added criteria to keep the sites away from homes, schools and parks. That pared the list to just four locations, but neighborhood opposition effectively eliminated one of those as well.

City housing officials Tuesday had initially suggested picking two potential city-owned sites for the tiny homes pilot.

Khamis and council members Dev Davis and Sergio Jimenez suggested eliminating city-owned land from consideration as potential options for tiny homes, and putting the villages on commercial or industrial land away from residences. Rocha supported that plan.

But Mayor Sam Liccardo said it’s disingenuous for San Jose to ask other public agencies to come up with suggestions for sites when the city refuses to use its own land.

“It’s important for us to hold ourselves accountable here,” Liccardo said, adding that using commercial or industrial land could add two years to the approval process. The mayor said the majority of homeless residents lived in San Jose before ending up on the streets and “they’re part of the community.”

Liccardo, along with Jones, Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco and council members Raul Peralez and Sylvia Arenas, authored the winning proposal to build no more than three tiny home villages citywide under a one-year pilot program. It included some provisions from Rocha’s proposal, including reaching out to other public agencies for site suggestions.

As part of that plan, the council agreed to send a letter to the county, Santa Clara Valley Water District and other public agencies to ask for help in finding land for the tiny homes. The city’s goal is to eventually place one tiny home village in each of San Jose’s 10 council districts.

Also Tuesday, the council directed housing officials to work with Destination: Home, a program of The Health Trust that combats homelessness, to possibly create a new homelessness task force.

Another major hurdle in San Jose’s quest to build tiny homes was public outreach. After releasing the initial list of 99 potential sites, housing leaders met with neighborhood groups — but not the general public. Housing director Jacky Morales-Ferrand said Tuesday that was “a terrible approach.”

Read the original report from The Mercury News.

Santa Cruz Public Library System Partners with The Health Trust to Offer Chronic Illness Self-Management Program

Chronic Illness Classes Start Aug. 5 in Santa Cruz

The Santa Cruz Public Library System has partnered with The Health Trust to bring the Better Choices, Better Health program to Santa Cruz at no charge, beginning Aug. 5.

Better Choices, Better Health is a six-week self-management program series provided by two trained community leaders.

These workshops are for anyone and/or their caretakers dealing with the challenges of living with chronic or ongoing health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma or high cholesterol.

Participants will learn about stress management, dealing with pain and fatigue, weight management, decision making and more.

In 2011-2012, about 24 percent of adults in Santa Cruz County were diagnosed with high blood pressure, a precursor to heart disease, according to the Health Santa Cruz County 2015 Report.

Workshops take place 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday from Aug. 5 through Sept. 9. Participants are requested to attend each session and registration is required. Information and registration: 408-961-9877 or bcbh@healthtrust.org.

Read the original online report here.

Food is Medicine: Gov. Jerry Brown Approves $6M Pilot Program for Chronically Ill

Read the original press release.

For Immediate Release: June 27, 2017
FIMC (California) Contact: Delfin Vig, dvigil@openhand.org or (415) 259-1247
Senator McGuire Contact: Kerrie Lindecker, Kerrie.Lindecker@sen.ca.gov or (707) 319-3654
The Health Trust Contact: Paul Hepfer, paulh@healthtrust.org or (408) 961-9845

Governor Jerry Brown approves ‘Food Is Medicine’ $6 million program for California’s chronically ill

Goal to enhance health outcomes expected to save taxpayers millions

Sacramento, CA – Governor Jerry Brown today approved a $6 million innovative healthy food pilot project for low income Californians with chronic health diseases. The Food Is Medicine based program, which drew staunch support from State Senator Mike McGuire, and State Assemblymembers Phil Ting and David Chiu, among other legislators, is expected to save taxpayers millions.

The $6 million project will be used over a three year pilot project period supporting a Food Is Medicine Coalition that includes Project Open Hand in San Francisco, Ceres Community Project and Food For Thought in the North Bay Area, The Health Trust in Santa Clara County, Project Angel Food in Los Angeles and Mama’s Kitchen in San Diego. The funds will target chronically ill Medi-Cal patients who suffer from congestive heart failure, cancer, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or renal disease.

The funding for this pilot project is included in SB 97, a budget bill that was voted on and approved in the Senate on Monday afternoon (June 26) and signed into legislation by Governor Jerry Brown today (June 27).

The soon-to-be launched program is modeled off of work in Philadelphia by the organization Manna. There, the pilot project demonstrated after delivering three medically tailored meals each day to 65 patients with chronic diseases for six months, their healthcare costs dropped from $38,937 per month to $28,183 per month and were 55 percent lower than other groups in the study.

After working hand-in-hand with members of the statewide Food Is Medicine Coalition, Senator McGuire embarked on a crusade to get funding secured in the budget for a statewide pilot program to include medically-tailored, home-delivered meals that are appropriate for the individual’s chronic diseases. He described the work of coalition as “life changing.”

“We couldn’t be more excited to turn this local success story into a statewide program that will improve the health of those who need it most while reducing costs for taxpayers over the long term,” Senator McGuire said. “The bottom line: We believe, over the next three years, we’ll demonstrate enhanced health outcomes for chronically ill Medi-Cal patients and save millions in health care costs.”

California State Assemblymembers Phil Ting and David Chiu strongly supported funding for this medically tailored meals project. Chiu sponsored the budget ask in the state assembly subcommittee in support of food as medicine. Alongside Chiu was Assemblymember Blanca E. Rubio, among others who testified in support. State Senators Scott Wiener and Nancy Skinner were also vocal supporters of the project.

A key catalyst that drove funding for this new pilot project included the results of a UCSF/ Project Open Hand “Food Is Medicine” research study that evaluated the impact of a medically tailored meal program for San Francisco and Alameda County residents with Type 2 Diabetes, HIV and/or dual diagnosis. The results, published earlier this year in the peer- reviewed Journal of Urban Health demonstrated a significant reduction in hospitalization (63%), an increase in medication adherence (50%) and a drop in ER visits (58%).

What experts are saying about the medically tailored meal program:

“This is an exciting time for our agencies and those very vulnerable, critically ill Californians we serve. We are particularly thrilled that the California Legislature had the vision to launch the very first statewide, medically-tailored-meal program in the United States. California is once again leading the nation in the implementing low cost/high return medical interventions to improve the health of our most marginalized and underserved citizens.”

  • Mark Ryle, CEO Project Open Hand, San Francisco

“Los Angeles has the highest food insecurity rate in the country. This pilot program will go a long way to make sure that people who are sick and hungry can get the food that not only keeps them alive, but will help them heal. We applaud the State of California for being visionaries in reducing food stress in the state, while bringing down the cost of health care. With a medically tailored intervention, we expect health care costs to be reduced by at least 20 percent.”

  • Richard Ayoub, Executive Director, Project Angel Food, Los Angeles

“We are thrilled for the opportunity to demonstrate that we can improve the health and wellbeing of vulnerable health-challenged California residents by providing medically tailored meals; and in doing so significantly decrease the cost of providing healthcare. A winning situation for all of California!”

  • Alberto Cortes, Executive Director, Mama’s Kitchen, San Diego

“High quality food is the missing piece of the puzzle for many patients, especially those on Medi-Cal who are often food insecure. We are grateful to Senator McGuire whose vision and leadership were critical to creating and forming this pilot project. The research is clear – when patients have enough healthy food, especially when it’s tailored to their illness, they feel better and they do better. This translates to less emergency room visits, shorter hospital stays, a greater ability to adhere to treatment – and all of that leads to lower healthcare costs.”

  • Cathryn Couch, CEO Ceres Community Project, Sonoma County

“We applaud our California lawmakers who had the vision and understanding that food truly does have the power to heal. By passing a budget that will fund further proof of this concept, we move closer to not only improving the health of hundreds of thousands of individuals, but the State stands to recognize enormous cost savings for decades to come.”

  • Paul Hepfer, Vice President of Programs, The Health Trust, Santa Clara County

“I am so pleased to see progress toward ensuring that the most critically ill patients have access to the food they need to stay healthy in their homes. Not only do these meals nourish, but they also hold promise for keeping people out of the hospital, preventing health crises, and allowing people to maintain independence at home.”

  • Hilary Seligman, MD PhD UCSF Global Health Sciences

The pilot project will track the utilization of the program closely, along with health outcomes, before, during and after the program has ended. At the end of the 3-year program, the Department of Health Care Services will evaluate what impact the program had on hospital readmissions, decreased admissions to long term care facilities, and emergency room utilization and will report the findings back to the legislature.

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ABOUT THE FOOD IS MEDICINE COALITION (FIMC): The Food is Medicine Coalition (FIMC) is an association of nonprofit, medically tailored food and nutrition services (FNS) providers from across the country. The FIMC advances public policy that supports access to food and nutrition services for people with severe and/or chronic illnesses; promotes research on the efficacy of food and nutrition services on health outcomes and cost of care; and shares best practices in the provision of medically tailored meals and of nutrition education and counseling. Project Open Hand, Ceres Community Project, Project Angel Food, Mama’s Kitchen, Food For Thought and The Health Trust represent a California contingency of the Food Is Medicine Coalition.

To schedule in an interview with a representative of the Food is Medicine Coalition, please
contact Delfin Vigil at (415) 259-1247 or e-mail: dvigil@openhand.org

ABOUT THE HEALTH TRUST: The Health Trust is a nonprofit foundation building health equity in Silicon Valley. It ensures that health related grants, policies and services exist to support Silicon Valley’s most vulnerable communities. Helping people manage chronic conditions and providing nutritious food to those that need it most, has always been a priority of The Health Trust. Since its inception in 1996, The Health Trust has operated a Meals On Wheels program that delivers hot nutritious meals and offers wellness checks to seniors, adults with disabilities and individuals that are homebound. The Health Trust also provides evidence based chronic disease self-management programs designed to provide people living with chronic conditions the tools to live healthier and more independent lives. The Health Trust also operates The Jerry Larson FOODBasket that supplies our AIDS Services clients with the fresh and nutritious food needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle. For more information, visit healthtrust.org.

Mercury News: A Helping Hand Before Homelessness for South Bay Families on the Brink

$3.5 million grant is joint venture of Santa Clara County, San Jose, Google, Sunlight Giving foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation

By  | ekurhi@bayareanewsgroup.com

SAN JOSE — Efforts to keep families in their homes in the notoriously unaffordable South Bay will soon get a $3.5 million boost through a partnership that’s part government, part charity and part Google.

While there are existing services aimed at households living on the verge of homelessness, most of what’s done is on an emergency basis, said Michelle Covert, housing and homeless concerns coordinator for Santa Clara County.

“Right now families come to us in need during a one-time crisis,” she said. “Maybe someone lost a job, or the wage earner leaves the home or maybe they’re sick and they miss work.”

They’ll get assistance so they don’t become homeless, Covert said, but after that “they often go on their way.”

She said that the new program — which launches July 1 — is aimed at “creating a more cohesive system.” That will include financial assistance to stabilize a situation but go further, with landlord mediation, financial counseling, help with security and utility deposits and other case management services. The goal is to help at least 600 households over the course of the two-year pilot program; there’s an assistance cap of $5,000 each.

It will also analyze results the same way programs currently do for the chronically homeless. That will offer better insight as to who is being served and what is effective.

“There’s not much follow-up in most cases to see what’s happening six months, 12 months, 24 months later,” Covert said. “We want to evaluate the efforts — did we actually truly help keep this family from becoming homeless down the road?”

The grant is a public-private partnership, with Santa Clara County and San Jose each putting up $750,000. Google is donating $1 million, and the remaining $1 million split between the Sunlight Giving foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Jennifer Loving of Destination: Home, a program of The Health Trust, which put together the grant, said wages haven’t kept up with rents, meaning “families are more and more squeezed.”

“They are more and more desperate to maintain their homes and put food on their tables,” she said.  “They’re already living so precariously.”

Poncho Guevara of Sacred Heart Community Service, which is leading the seven organizations involved in the effort, said this kind of funding is something they’ve been trying to get for years.

“We’ve been very supportive of the efforts the county has invested in to tackle chronic homelessness and veteran homelessness,” he said. “And we’ve been pushing really hard to make sure families don’t get left out of the equation.”

Advocates said it’s hard to gauge exactly how many families are at risk of becoming homeless at any given time. But the 2015 homeless census found 908 individuals in 266 families — about 14 percent of the county’s total homeless population. Nearly 95 percent of the families found during the 2015 count were staying in county shelters or in transitional housing. Nearly 80 percent of those surveyed were a female-headed household, 63 percent identified as Latino and the list of reasons for why they became homeless was topped by job loss and domestic violence.

The vast majority of the time they’re not as visible as chronically homeless individuals; they’re not the ones who will be found beneath overpasses, in parks or encampments.

“Parents will do everything they can to avoid experiencing literal homelessness with their kids,” Covert said. “They’ll double up or triple up. They’ll sleep in cars or RVs, or stay in motels.”

Google got involved because of the program’s “innovative way of thinking about pragmatic solutions to complex problems,” said Adrian Schurr, manager of the company’s Bay Area Giving division.

“We call Santa Clara County our home,” Schurd said, “and we want to help organizations like Destination: Home reach the most vulnerable in our community.”

“Once you’ve lost stability and become homeless, getting out is so much harder,” said Jennifer Loving of Destination: Home, which put together the $3.5 million grant. “If we can mitigate before we get to that point, we can prevent an avalanche of more costly interventions, as well as trauma.”

It’s particularly tough on kids, Loving said — children will often be forced to switch schools often as they bounce from one temporary home to another.

“I think we’re going to learn,” Loving said, “that a little bit of money can go a long way toward preventing catastrophe.”

Read the original report.

Destination: Home Receives $3.3M in New Funding

With $3.3 million in new funding, our program Destination: Home will now be able to facilitate a pilot program which aims to implement a homelessness prevention system and prevent all instances of family homelessness in our county! We are beyond amazed at the level of support this program is receiving, and grateful to have friends willing to stand with us as we fight for the health of our community.

Learn more about Destination: Home’s supporters and new homelessness prevention initiative here.

The Health Trust’s Public Health Institute Fellows Selected to Present at APHA 2017

The Health Trust’s Public Health Institute fellows, Cindy Tran and Rachel Horst, who work directly with our programs and Food for Everyone work, respectively, have been invited to the American Public Health Association 2017 Annual Meeting & Expo to present their abstracts.

Cindy and her colleagues will give a 20-minute oral presentation (“Collaboration between insurance companies and community-based organizations to expand access to evidence-based programs for patients with comorbidities”).

Rachel and team will have a poster presentation (“Addressing Senior Food Insecurity: A Housing Approach“).

Congratulations to both teams! We are so proud of you!

Maria Garcia Promoted to Program Officer

The Health Trust is glad to announce the promotion of Maria Garcia from Grants Administrator to Program Officer.

As Program Officer, Maria will be responsible for communicating The Health Trust’s grant priorities to the community and prospective grant applicants. She will also support grantees in meeting their grant objectives and connecting grantees with other resources to advance their project goals.

Over the last seven years as Grants Administrator, Maria served as the first point of contact for grant applicants and grantees providing technical assistance during the application process and grant implementation. She developed and implemented policies and systems that streamlined and strengthened the department, and was instrumental in developing and establishing procedures for the agency’s Hospital Sponsors. Most recently, she was integral in moving the department into an online grantmaking system.

You can learn more about Maria by reading her biography.

You can learn more about The Health Trust grant making opportunities here.
Any questions regarding our grants can be sent to grants@healthtrust.org.

Four-year HIV initiative, Getting to Zero, kicks off in Santa Clara County

The initiative launch on Wednesday, April 26, 2017 at The Health Trust’s Living & Learning Lounge on Race Street brought together key players in Santa Clara County’s fight against HIV/AIDS. The Health Trust, Santa Clara County Public Health Department and other partners were also joined by Supervisor Ken Yeager, whose leadership brought in funding from the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.

Also in attendance were the first round of “mini-grant” recipients, who represent a variety of community-based organizations, public agencies, clinics, schools, and other groups which will support the Getting to Zero campaign by prioritizing four focus areas of the initiative. See the list of first-round grantees here.

We are excited to see what kind of progress we can make, together, in the first year of this initiative!