For Northwest Permanente’s Family Medicine Chief, Homeless Crisis is Personal

October 11, 2016

Like all of the physicians at Kaiser Permanente Northwest (KPNW), Dr. Rowena Manalo knows her patients very well. She’s been there for them through their ups and downs – some for many years. Most patients are up front about their health issues. But in her three years as Chief of Family Medicine in Portland, she’s treated more than a few who were ashamed to share the fact that they were homeless.

“It’s not socially acceptable to be homeless,” she said. “I felt horrible. It’s a prevalent problem.”

What made it worse is that many of them had jobs – they simply didn’t make enough to pay for rent.

So when KPNW was approached by Central City Concern, a local nonprofit agency that provides health care and affordable housing in Portland, about an opportunity to address the homeless crisis, she knew KPNW had to be involved.

To address the urgent need in the community, KPNW has joined forces with five other health-care organizations to invest a total of $21.5 million to help create new affordable housing units and a new health-care center in the city.

Dr. Manalo and the Safety Net Partnerships Committee she serves on at KPNW recommended a $4 million grant – the largest single grant in KPNW’s history. The committee is made up of 10 members from across KPNW and includes representatives from primary care, Medicaid, the dental health plan, Permanente Dental Associates, pharmacy, Diversity & Inclusion, Center for Health Research and Northwest Permanente.

The project, called “Housing Is Health,” aligns with KPNW’s total health philosophy. The investment will support 382 new housing units across three locations, plus a new health center in Southeast Portland. KPNW is partnering with Adventist Health, CareOregon, Legacy Health, OHSU and Providence Health & Services to make this important project a reality.

The announcement of the grant received widespread media coverage in the Pacific Northwest and nationwide, including stories in The Oregonian, The Portland Business Journal and The New York Times.


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