Promoting Health through Housing Investments
Enterprise and Citi continued the Health Begins with Home Convening series on December 15, 2020, with the third and final convening dedicated to promoting health through investments in housing. We entered the discussion centering the communities served by investments made into affordable, quality housing. Two main highlights taken from the third discussion are creating vital conditions for mental health and well-being and the approach of healthcare institutions in community partnerships and investment.
Vital Conditions for Well-Being
Tyler Norris, chief executive, Well-Being Trust, kicked off the conversation with an interesting question.
“What would it mean to create communities as gardens for human flourishing? Gardens for people realizing their highest and best gifts in communities that support them in each and every way.”
Norris found that answer while participating in building an organization, now called Step Denver, that focused on community recovery efforts for those struggling with substance abuse and housing insecurity. It was there that Norris discovered that each person had an asset or gift that was highly valuable to the community they resided in, and there was an opportunity in fostering an environment that would allow community members to share and grow their gifts.
As the founder of the Well-Being Trust, an impact philanthropy with a mission to advance mental, social and spiritual health, Norris sought to utilize the same model he learned from his time with Step Denver, which is to lift up what is best in a community so it can flourish. Leaving the question, how do you create these community conditions? In partnership with thought leaders across the country, these conditions have been defined as the Vital Conditions for Well-Being and include, a thriving natural world, reliable transportation, belonging and civic muscle, lifelong learning, meaningful work and wealth, basic needs and safety, and of course, humane housing.
The Approach of Healthcare Institutions in Community Partnerships
With this background, the discussion shifted to how these conditions could be created and the role community organizations could play, including healthcare. Healthcare involvement with a focus on supporting humane housing can be a pivotal component to change with a combination of strategic investments, advocacy, data and programs. Some notable healthcare institutions engaging in community partnerships include Providence St. Joseph Health and Kaiser Permanente.
Since its origin, Providence St. Joseph Health (Providence) has always tackled the issue of housing and homelessness. Providence believes that housing instability and homelessness are symptoms of the culmination and combination of forces like inequality, poverty, income disparities, institutional racism and erosion of the social safety net. With the complexity of said upstream influences, panelist Dora Barilla, Community Investment executive leader for Providence St. Joseph Health, acknowledges the need for community partnerships unique for each community since the likelihood of a “one size fits all” strategy to address upstream forces is very low.
Therefore, community partnerships with healthcare institutions will need to emphasize a “smarter approach” where measurable data from each program helps answer the question of what investment strategy makes sense for the allocation of healthcare resources. This guides Providence to align its investments with existing, complementary efforts in the community and creates change since Providence can aim to use its dollars differently than other organizations in the community. Providence has been using this strategy specifically in targeting homelessness and creating more humane pathways for discharging patients experiencing homelessness.
Michael McKnight, senior vice president of policy & innovation of Green & Healthy Homes Initiative led a panel centered on innovative health care investment into housing and how to root this work in the community being served. McKnight acknowledged the various incentives at play for healthcare, including reputation, health improvements among members or patients, and healthcare savings. The panel discussion focused on two different models illustrating how health care is investing in affordable housing.
Kaiser Permanente is a nonprofit healthcare provider that’s incorporated housing stability and combating homelessness into their strategy for health promotion. Kaiser Permanente’s Vice President of Strategy and Community Health, John Vu, exemplified Kaiser’s contribution most notably in the San Francisco and Oakland areas where gentrification has taken root and spread. With the affordability crisis threatening the health and wellbeing of longtime residents, Kaiser Permanente and Enterprise Community Partners worked together to create the Housing for Health Fund. This fund is innovative in how it is structured to work with local developers to preserve existing affordable housing while working with residents, through a health action plan, to prioritize strategies for improving health.
Additionally, Kevin Krejci, chief capitalization officer, Gulf Coast Housing Partnership (GCHP) spoke to the two health and housing initiative pilot sites recently launched. The Jackson, Mississippi, project was born out of needs for affordable housing, specifically for seniors, identified by the three largest African American churches in Jackson. The piece this group was missing, was the financing. GCHP was able to work with local partners and rooted this housing finance model around health and housing to attract healthcare investment. Leadership of this work will remain in the community-based groups that first identified the need.
These are just some of the highlights from the Enterprise and Citi Health Begins with Home Convening series. To listen to the full conversation, please access the full recording.
This blog was authored by Damarea Crain and Mary Ayala, program director, Enterprise National Initiatives.