May 11, 2020
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island makes $500K investment to improve access to safe and affordable housing; nine local agencies receive funding
The 2020 BlueAngel Community Health Grant program targets the places where health and housing intersect
PROVIDENCE, RI (May 12, 2020) – The need for safe and affordable homes has never been as critical as it is now, in a time when staying at home is the first line of defense against the spread of the coronavirus. But for many Rhode Islanders, this basic need is out of reach or increasingly unstable, a finding reinforced by last year’s launch of the RI Life Index, a data source that focuses on the life factors that influence health and well-being. Many of the 2,200 Rhode Islanders who responded to the RI Life Index survey see access to safe and affordable housing as a significant challenge.
With this information as the backdrop, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) redirected the focus of its 2020 BlueAngel Community Health Grant program (BACHG) and has awarded $500,000 to nine local organizations committed to improving access to affordable housing. This is in addition to $200,000 BCBSRI awarded to five housing-related agencies at the end of 2019.
The organizations receiving funding in 2020 are each finding creative ways to make healthy and affordable housing a reality for those most in need, as well as helping them to become self-sufficient, whether through building vocational skills, learning how to negotiate with a landlord and understand tenant rights, or, in the case of formerly incarcerated individuals, receiving case management assistance and reentry support.
“Based on the results of the RI Life Index, we were determined to take action on affordable and safe housing, one of the best-researched social determinants of health. We know that selective housing interventions can improve health outcomes and quality of life, which is our ultimate goal for Rhode Islanders,” said Kim Keck, BCBSRI president and CEO. “Lack of access to affordable and safe housing has been exacerbated by COVID-19, and we are grateful to the organizations who continue to work tirelessly to combat this issue. We look forward to collaborating with them in the days, weeks and months ahead.”
The organizations that will receive a total of $500,000 in BACHG funding in 2020 are:
- Amos House – Providence – Amos House will expand its Financial Opportunity Center to have a dedicated Housing Advocate, which will increase the number of clients they are able to support with housing searches, application support and resources to those seeking permanent community housing.
- Child & Family – Newport – Child & Family supports Rhode Islanders experiencing homelessness at their eight-unit Supportive Housing site in Newport. Families can utilize supportive housing for up to two years while they build their vocational skills, work toward educational goals, and access critical case management and other services to enable future self-sustainability.
- Foster Forward – East Providence – Foster Forward’s “Your Way Home” program is a rapid re-housing program, providing youth aging out of the foster care system with dedicated case management and access to workforce development programs, financial capability education and mentoring to ensure that they do not become homeless.
- Lucy’s Hearth – Middletown – Lucy’s Hearth will provide housing navigation services to families for up to six months after their stay in Lucy’s Hearth’s family shelter. Families will be connected with housing programs, receive education around landlord negotiation and tenant rights, and have access to many other supportive services.
- OpenDoors – Providence – OpenDoors provides housing-based reentry support for formerly incarcerated individuals through their resource center, permanent housing residences, and their 9 Yards transitional house. Comprehensive reentry support will be provided to 90 individuals through an expanded case management service, and 390 people will receive help with basic supports at a drop-in resource center. These funds will also allow OpenDoors to open up a second transitional house to assist people being released from prison.
- Providence Housing Authority (PHA) – Providence – Providence Housing Authority (PHA) will utilize a full-time AmeriCorps member from the Accessing Home program to provide supportive services, referrals, application assistance and more to Rhode Islanders who have previously experienced homelessness and to existing Section 8 voucher holders struggling to maintain housing. PHA will also develop educational materials, provide technical assistance and develop incentives for more Providence landlords to participate in the Section 8 program.
- Rhode Island Legal Services – Providence – Rhode Island Legal Services (RILS) represents tenants whose apartment conditions pose potential health and safety issues and holds landlords accountable to provide health-related repairs as is legally required. RILS will also provide trainings at community sites and social service agencies around tenant rights, eviction, enforcing housing code, health problems associated with substandard housing and more.
- Sojourner House – Providence – Sojourner House will provide rapid re-housing for victims of interpersonal violence, and expand its bilingual housing clinic, which helps victims and survivors with housing resources, filling out housing applications, housing searches and rights education under the Violence Against Women Act. Sojourner House will also expand its local landlord outreach and education, hosting trainings and networking sessions, which will ultimately help Sojourner House clients find housing.
- The Rhode Island Center for Justice – Providence – The Rhode Island Center for Justice will work with community partners to expand its representation of low-income tenants facing housing insecurity, homelessness and unsafe and unhealthy conditions in their homes. The Center for Justice, as a member of the HomesRI Policy Coalition, will work toward positive policy changes to make all low-income tenants more secure in their homes, protect them from unjust and unrepresented evictions and improve substandard housing conditions in low-income rentals.
Since the BlueAngel Community Health Grant program’s inception in 2002, BCBSRI has donated more than $4 million to support local nonprofit organizations, impacting more than 300,000 Rhode Islanders. The BACHG program is BCBSRI’s cornerstone grant program, supporting nonprofit organizations working to address critical health issues in Rhode Island. BACHG funding is made available through the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island Community Health Fund maintained at the Rhode Island Foundation.