Home, health, and healing in the Northwest
Reneese, a Longview, Washington resident, knows firsthand how hard it is to achieve good health without a place to call home.
“I was homeless for 5 years,” she said. “I depleted my savings account looking for a job. And then I started getting sick. I have cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and rejection of a kidney transplant. My medication regimen is a lot.”
Looking for help, she called the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, which put her in touch with Love Overwhelming. This local nonprofit is one of 7 organizations throughout the region, from Lane County in Oregon to Cowlitz County in Washington, that get funding from Kaiser Permanente as part of the Housing for Health initiative.
Creating safe, healthy communities
Kaiser Permanente’s Housing for Health initiative has given $2.3 million to 7 nonprofit organizations — including Love Overwhelming — that are helping community members get health care and social services, and find and keep permanent housing. These community organizations connect people in need to community health workers, bring together housing and care providers, and advocate for funding and services.
“Housing acts kind of like a vaccine,” said Catherine Potter, Kaiser Permanente’s manager for safety-net partnerships. “It not only helps people get healthy, it helps them stay healthy for a long time.”
Kaiser Permanente’s grant to Love Overwhelming helps the organization staff its housing and resource center, where Deborah Idlett works as a peer support case manager. Deborah herself overcame addiction and homelessness with Love Overwhelming’s help.
“Homelessness in and of itself is really traumatic,” Deborah said. “Reneese told me, for example, that she was suffering from PTSD from some of the trauma she’s experienced. I too have PTSD, so there’s an understanding of what it takes to build trust.”
“When I met Deborah in her office, we just clicked,” Reneese agreed. “She just understood who I was already.”
After 4 weeks of working with Deborah and Love Overwhelming, Reneese got the keys to her new home. Having her own place is a big step toward creating the stability she needs to deal with her health challenges.
“I haven’t had a home of my own for 5 years,” Reneese said. “To walk into a place they say is yours — it was just an amazing feeling.”
Learn more about how Kaiser Permanente is creating healthier communities for our members.
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