Jackson Care Connect invests $500,000 in fire relief and affordable housing support

Medford, Ore.— Before the Almeda fire destroyed more than 2500 homes in Talent and Phoenix this September, the housing market in southern Oregon was already tight, with a 1.5% vacancy rate. Because more than half of the homes lost were manufactured homes or mobile homes, the lack of affordable housing options has created a dire situation for many.

Jason Elzy, Executive Director of the Housing Authority of Jackson County, says the agency has long been held back by the lack of available resources to create new housing units. As the largest provider of affordable housing in southern Oregon, the Housing Authority develops 50-100 housing units in an average year, but Elzy says that was barely making a dent in the need, as the waitlist averages 4000-5000 households.

As part of the CareOregon family, Jackson Care Connect is a coordinated care organization (CCO) providing Medicaid coverage for more than 50,000 members in Jackson County. The Housing Authority reached out to Jackson Care Connect for support in meeting the drastically increased need created by the fires. “Many of our members lost homes to this urban fire,” says Jackson Care Connect Executive Director Jennifer Lind. “Getting people connected to safe housing is a health care priority.”

Jackson Care Connect’s board approved allocating $50,000 to help fund a new position with the Housing Authority that is dedicated to the development of mobile and manufactured homes. Elzy says the position will explore new options for funding resources and find creative ways to rebuild the communities.

“We know housing stabilizes lives,” Elzy says. “We want to get out of the gate as quickly as possible.”

 “Partnerships like this one between Jackson Care Connect and the Housing Authority of Jackson County are going to be so important as we look at the long-term rebuilding of our community,” says Elzy.

Community Advisory Council seeds new fund

Housing access has also been identified as one of the three key priorities in the new community health improvement plan All In For Health, coordinated by the Jefferson Regional Health Alliance. The plan was developed through a community-wide initiative in Jackson and Josephine counties, which has also formed a workgroup dedicated to community housing solutions.

In support of these efforts, and in response to the need created by the fires, Jackson Care Connect’s Community Advisory Council (CAC) approved allocating $50,000 to start a new fund dedicated to finding affordable housing solutions.

The CAC is a diverse group of community voices that gives input on member needs to Jackson Care Connect and provides grants to community programs. They are hopeful this fund will serve as a seed fund for larger community involvement.

Fire relief support

In addition, Jackson Care Connect allocated $400,000 to support to community organizations providing direct fire relief and recovery support, including organizations that provide housing assistance. Jackson Care Connect is reaching out to organizations that serve Latinx, low-income and elderly community members, as these groups were disproportionately affected by the fires.

Looking forward to 2021, Jackson Care Connect has committed an additional $200,000 for supportive housing projects and programming next year. This will help fund the work of organizations providing direct services to the community and will build on the work of projects Jackson Care Connect has supported in the past by Rogue Retreat, Columbia Care, Addictions Recovery Center, Options for Helping Residents of Ashland and more.

To apply or learn more about funding, organizations can contact Samantha Watson at watsons@careoregon.org.

For information about Jackson Care Connect, contact Sara King Cole, 503-416-7791, kingcoles@careoregon.org or Elise Burke, 503-416-3736, burkee@careoregon.org.

____________________________________________________________________

About Jackson Care Connect

Jackson Care Connect serves the people of Jackson County as an Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid) Coordinated Care Organization. We bring physical, behavioral and oral health care together, to make it easier for members to get the care they need. Our mission is to help members of our community prevent illness and respond effectively to health issues. We partner with other organizations to explore innovative projects that promote a healthy Jackson County, and to connect members with appropriate whole person care.

Top 5 Health Articles