Earlier this winter, Kaiser Permanente and several other local health care providers got together to build 380 new housing units in the Portland area.

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Multnomah County Chair Deb Kafoury at a press conference announcing $2.27 million in grants from Kaiser Permanente to fund 15 new community health care positions at seven different nonprofits. The workers will be tasked with establishing relationships with the region's mentally ill homeless populations to help transition them into housing.

Multnomah County Chair Deb Kafoury at a press conference announcing $2.27 million in grants from Kaiser Permanente to fund 15 new community health care positions at seven different nonprofits. The workers will be tasked with establishing relationships with the region's mentally ill homeless populations to help transition them into housing.

Kristian Foden-Vencil / OPB

The trouble is, many homeless people suffer from severe mental illnesses or have addiction issues and are reluctant to move in. They don’t trust the system.

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Kaiser announced Monday that it will give approximately $2.27 million in funding to seven organizations in Oregon and Washington to create 15 new community health worker positions.

The new community health workers, many of whom will have dealt with their own mental illnesses, will reach out to build trust with the vulnerable population.

The organizations include Outside In, Catholic Charities of Oregon, Urban League of Portland Catholic Community Services of the Mid-Willamette Valley and the Central Coast, Love Overwhelming, Sheltercare and Willamette Family.

Margi Dechenne is with Catholic Charities of Oregon, one of seven nonprofits to receive some money. “Housing transition staff is knowledgeable about housing placement, but we don’t have the clinical experience with profound mental illness,” she said.

The new positions will be funded for at least three years.

The nonprofits have also been asked to identify other policies to end homelessness for people with mental illness and addictions.

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