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This New All-in-One Healthcare Center Is a Game Changer for San Francisco’s Homeless

Finally, some 10,000 homeless and low-income San Franciscans can stop juggling dozens of service providers and actually focus on getting help.

 

San Francisco badly wants to help its homeless residents. The city spent $275 million on homelessness and supportive housing in the fiscal year that ended this summer. Yet the number of homeless has barely budged, and people with chronic health conditions get harder to help the longer they stay on the streets. “Our whole system is completely overwhelmed,” says Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness. “There are usually long waits for appointments, substance-use treatment, and mental illnesses. The capacity issue is a big issue that we face.”

Healthcare CEO Vitka Eisen wants to try to reverse this pernicious feedback loop, starting today. This afternoon a new healthcare center from her organization, HealthRight 360, a longtime healthcare provider for patients facing homelessness and addiction, opens in the Mission district. Dubbed the Integrated Care Center, it’s doing something as yet unheard of: putting many different services together under one roof, for free. 

From its new perch on the corner of Mission Street and South Van Ness, the center offers everything from medical care and substance-abuse treatment to a computer lab, a closet of free interview clothes, and a charter school where patients can work toward their GED. It’s a game changer for roughly 10,000 homeless and low-income patients in San Francisco, who typically face long waits—not to mention schleps to and from different providers—to get the help they need. Now they can go to one centrally located clearinghouse to have a checkup, get placed into one the residential treatment beds at other HealthRight 360 facilities in the city, use a computer to apply for jobs, get an interview outfit, and, come January, get a dental checkup and fill prescriptions. "There’s nothing like it in the country," says Eisen. 

To get the center up and running, HealthRight 360 raised $57 million from the Department of Public Health, healthcare providers, and anonymous donors. “A core part of what we do is addressing the social determinants of health,” Eisen says. “If we don’t address people’s housing, income, or educational needs or even their ability to use a computer, then we’re not helping them realize their full potential.”

“We are investing in human dignity,” Eisen adds.

 

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