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In an effort to boost the number of affordable homes available to homeless residents with chronic or serious health conditions, San Mateo County officials are taking steps to apply for a $20 million grant from the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

Aimed at improving the lack of permanent housing options with supportive services available for homeless individuals with medical and behavioral health needs, the effort to apply for state funds is the product of a collaboration between San Mateo County Health, the county’s Human Services Agency, the county’s Department of Housing and the Health Plan of San Mateo, according to a staff report.

After the passage of Senate Bill 2 in 2017, the California Department of Housing and Community Development now administers a Housing for a Healthy California program supported by federal and state funds. The program’s goal is reducing the burden on the state and local jurisdictions of the overuse of emergency rooms and law enforcement resources, among others, in providing health care for homeless individuals. It distributes funds that can be used toward acquisition or construction of projects as well as operating assistance, which can entail long-term rental assistance to private landlords, according to the report.

The state Department of Housing and Community Development released a notice of funding availability in May, and officials determined the county is eligible to apply for a grant from the Housing for a Healthy California program. Applicants using Whole Person Care pilot program funds provided by the state Department of Health Care Services are awarded additional points for competitive grants, and San Mateo County Health entered into a five-year agreement in 2016 to participate in the state health department’s Medi-Cal 2020 Whole Person Care pilot program, according to the report.

Aimed at providing coordinated delivery of physical and behavioral health resources, housing and other community-based supportive services, the Whole Person Care pilot program is expected to improve the health of high-risk patients with many health needs, according to the report.

By approving $1 million in Measure K funds in the 2016-17 fiscal year and $2 million in Measure K funds annually through 2020 for housing services, county officials have supported 78 homeless Whole Person Care clients in securing permanent housing as well as an effort to provide a six-bed recuperative care program for homeless individuals discharged from the hospital, according to the report.

Measure K is half-cent sales tax for county services that the Board of Supervisors earmarked a significant portion of for housing programs.

Staff recommended officials apply for $20 million from the Housing for a Healthy California grant program, the maximum amount that can be requested, to support the creation or preservation of affordable housing as well as operating subsidies in the form of 15-year capitalized operating reserves for new and existing affordable housing units, according to the report.

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