Of San Jose’s 5,000 or so homeless residents, nearly 30 percent are chronically on the streets, according to city housing officials. Most of the chronically homeless suffer from mental illness, physical disability, addiction or some combination of the three.
On Wednesday, the San Jose’s Rules and Open Government Committee will discuss legislation that could address such problems.
California spends half its Medi-Cal funds on only 4 percent of beneficiaries, according to the Corporation for Supportive Housing. That 4 percent needs intensive treatment for social, mental, medical and substance abuse problems, the severity often leaving these people incurable.
City Housing director Leslye Corsiglia recommends San Jose’s elected officials vote to support a state Assembly bill that would offer comprehensive support for the chronically homeless. The “Health Home” bill, AB 361, introduced by Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell (D-Culver City), would finance stable shelter and mental health services for those prone to homelessness.
The bill proposes tapping into President Obama’s Affordable Care Act to fund 90 percent of intensive in-home health services. Private health foundation California Endowment actually offered to pay the state’s 10-percent share of the cost for the first two years.
“People who frequently use hospitals for reasons that could have been avoided incur disproportionate resources; about 1,000 accumulate Medi-Cal costs of over $100,000 in a year,” according to a fact sheet published by the housing corporation.
And yet, medical homes can’t fully address the problems—like social isolation and homelessness—that send this population to the hospital in the first place. A homeless person often can’t get enough rest, eat well, store medications or attend appointments.
“Two-thirds of frequent users have both medical and behavioral health conditions,” the fact sheet continues. “Most are homeless and will die, on average, 30 years younger than average.”
San Jose has a vested interest in helping this portion of the local homeless population, because it takes public resources to deal with these people. Homeless encampments have cropped up in recent years that garnered national attention, setting in focus the growing and glaring divide between rich and poor in Silicon Valley.
If AB 361 becomes law, it would draw in cash for the local Housing 1000 Campaign, an effort through Santa Clara County to provide a home for 1,000 of the county’s most vulnerable homeless.
Corsiglia writes in a memo to the Rules committee that the bill would help provide a more coordinated focus for existing South Bay programs.
“Currently, health care services to homeless individuals are typically not coordinated with the other services they need to address their ongoing mental health and medical needs, and homeless situation,” the memo says. “As long as they remain un-housed, homeless individuals, and especially chronically homeless individuals, will continue using expensive medical services that could have been avoided if they had been able to obtain sufficient rest, follow a healthy diet, store medications, or regularly attend appointments. Conversely, chronic health conditions often contribute to an individual’s homeless situation by preventing them from accessing the income, services, and assistance they need to become permanently housed.”
Click here to read the entire text of AB 361, which makes its way to the Assembly floor for a vote on May 31.
• Corsiglia signed her name in support of another housing bill, which she’s asking for elected officials to endorse, too. AB 532, the California Homes and Jobs Act penned by Assemblyman Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park), would re-allocate existing affordable housing funds to help build more low-income homes.
WHAT: Rules and Open Government Committee meets
WHEN: 2pm Wednesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260