Health

In our first Health and Community Development supplement, which ran in the Spring 2018 edition of Shelterforce magazine, we focus on community development board members who are from the health field, and census traits and health.The health of individuals and the health of communities are linked in so many ways, from zoning to access to fresh food, safe housing, safe streets and parks, and proper medical care. How is this growing realization affecting practice for both community development organizations and health care organizations? What does it take for these two separate worlds to partner toward shared goals? Thanks to the Kresge and Robert Wood Johnson foundations, and Kaiser Permanente for supporting our health and communities coverage, and to our Health and Community Development Editorial Advisory Board for their guidance, knowledge, and insights. Click here to view and download a PDF of our health supplements.

Several residents, as well as some children, enjoy outside exercise equipment.

Getting Health on Board

It’s becoming increasingly common for community development corporations and grassroots housing organizations to have board members from the health care sector. Here's why.

Making Food Deserts Bloom

Finding fresh produce in low-income neighborhoods can be a struggle, but community efforts are striving to fill the void.

Taking Health Into Account

By systematically assessing the health risks of development decisions upfront, health impact assessments can prevent costly and harmful mistakes.

The Other Health Agenda

While health-care reform has once again grabbed the headlines and the attention of health advocates in the 2008 presidential election, the next occupant of...
bridge watercolor

Mental Health and Community Development

The community development and mental health fields have a critical opportunity to work together in supporting the mental health of low-income communities.

Staying Ahead of the Age Wave

Groups working with older adults, including many community developers, are crafting a range of creative interventions, from home modifications to service-enriched housing models, to allow seniors to age in place. Will it be enough?

Renovating Senior Complexes to Be Green, Healthy, and Connected

Orness Plaza is one of the only public housing developments geared toward seniors and the disabled in Mankato, Minn., the state’s fourth largest city....
Residents of four historically African-American neighborhoods hold up a sign that reads "This Land is Our Land! #TentCityATL"

The Right to Stay Put

There is much work to be done around housing and equitable development, but the solution is not simply to move people around. A key challenge is creating real choice.

Leaving Grandma Out in the Cold

The demise of the federal program that funded senior housing construction bodes ill for the increasing numbers of low-income seniors who struggle to afford a decent place to live.

Can San Francisco Get Mixed-Income Public Housing Redevelopment Right?

The HOPE SF program is aiming to explicitly avoid many of the problems mixed-income public housing redevelopments have faced, to create a truly inclusive process.

Under One Roof: Health Care and Social Services in the Same Place

Without steady employment, Olivia and her son found themselves without housing, without food, without healthcare, and without options. It...
An exterior view of a rowhouse in Philadelphia, Pennslyvania that appears to have some water damage.

Rowhouse Repairs for Health in Philadelphia

In Philadelphia, health care professionals and housing advocates are working together to deliver home repairs to low-income homeowners.
Members of Boston Liberation Health hold a banner that reads, "Capitalism, racism, and heteropatriachy are making us sick. Join Liberation Health."

How Organizing for Justice Helps Your Mental Health

How do social justice, organizing, and mental health interact? Shelterforce chats with clinical social worker Dawn Belkin Martinez to find out.

Advocates for Healthy Housing

As public health and housing activists recognized a century ago when they fought for stronger sanitation and health codes, poorly maintained housing causes serious...
Q: Can Support Community Development Improve Outcomes for the Health Sector? Yes! Over 50 percent of premature deaths in the U.S. can be attributed to preventable non-medical factors, specifically behavioral, environmental, and social conditions. Graphic of a home and all the areas that community development helps with health outcomes. Image links to PDF version of The Answer.

Q: Can Supporting Community Development Improve Outcomes for the Health Sector?

Yes! Over 50 percent of premature deaths in the U.S. can be attributed to preventable non-medical factors, specifically behavioral, environmental, and social conditions.

Better Living by Urban Restoration

It is the larger social and cultural environment of a home that creates health, not the housing unit considered on its own, concluded a...
A once-vacant lot in Philadelphia that has been cleaned.

Greening Vacant Lots: Low Cost, Big Effect in Philly

A Philadelphia program is cleaning up abandoned lots, helping formerly incarcerated residents get jobs, and improving the overall health and well-being of neighborhoods.

Community Development: It’s What’s For Dinner

Last week we heard from Alan Mallach and Mindy Thompson Fullilove on different aspects of stable neighborhoods. Mallach, in his post, looks at some of...

The Tenacity of Dysfunction

The word resilience has different meanings in different fields. In the field of material science, it refers to the ability of a material to...
Barcelona apartment buildings

Shelter Shorts—The Week in Community Development, April 20

NIMBYs, YIMBYs, PHIMBYs-Oh My! | Can Algorithms Make Equitable Cities? | Retail Segregation Takes a Toll | E.R. Visits and "Tough" Neighborhoods | Enough Innovation Already | More...
A sign that reads "wellness center."

Aligning Health Systems With Community Development

Hospitals and health systems can’t solve societal challenges alone. But they can play a key role in mobilizing and aligning joint resources to bring positive changes to low-income communities.

The Next Step in Supportive Housing

With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, individual-focused healthy lifestyles—regardless of socioeconomic status—became an increased topic of discussion. Along with clear correlations between...
california construction site

California’s Endless Housing “Crisis”

In many ways, the recognition of the current “crisis” stems from middle- and upper-income Californians finally being impacted, and using their power to push for solutions that would address their situation. But their solutions ignore another population.
grand rapids skyline

Smaller Cities Are Laboratories for Change

In smaller cities it is typically much easier to engage high levels of leadership, get traction for strategies that are more visible, engage the wider community, build trust, and scale solutions more quickly than in larger areas. Here are a few examples.
A woman in a pink, "I love San Francisco" sweater walks ahead of two women in light beige sweaters and a little girl who is wearing a pink coat and drinking a bottle of water. They are walking down a street and passing a black car that is parked on the left.

Community Building Despite Trauma

The trauma caused by poverty and the systems that reinforce it can short-circuit standard efforts to build community. A new method called “trauma-informed community building” aims to change that.

Webinar: Are Our Neighborhoods Making Us Sick?

Inadequate housing conditions—the presence of lead, radon, water leaks, poor ventilation, pollution or mold—are linked to poor health. But research also shows that even...

Common Sense Is Community Development’s Most Powerful Ally

The title of this post proved itself to be true for us in Duluth, when local organizations got together to address the growing need...
Kids dance at a neighborhood street festival

What Happens When a CDC Pivots to a Health-First Focus?

Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation in Cleveland finds that being an early adopter of a community health focus has its advantages.

Don’t Dump on Us

If it were not acceptable for anyone to suffer from substandard housing or the problems of disinvested neighborhoods, then many of the public health issues facing us would be automatically reduced.

How *to* Connect Health and Community Development

A recent Rooflines post explored how not to connect community development and health, urging practitioners to not fall into the trap of “moralizing public...
fast food signs

Shelter Shorts, The Week in Community Development—Oct. 12

News from—and affecting—the community development world. This week: fast food swamps, Seattle has too many apartments, criminal justice, basic income pilot, more.

Housing Advocates Track Indoor Environmental Hazards to Spur Improvements

When the community health promoters of San Diego’s Environmental Health Coalition (EHC) say they’re doing pollution testing, many people probably imagine samples from the...

Making the Connections Between Housing and Health

In December, President Barack Obama signed into law the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act that offers health, and dignity to millions of people through access to life-saving water and sanitation. The focus of this legislation will not cost taxpayers a penny more; it simply makes U.S. investment in existing programs smarter, more […]

A Farm-to-Fork Movement, Starting with the Corner Store

One of the more intriguing aspects of the local food movement in the United States is the effort to...
Dr. Kelly Kelleher and the Rev. John Edgar walk down a street in Columbus, Ohio.

How a Risk-Averse Hospital and a Risk-Taking CDC Built a Functional Partnership

Shelterforce recently spoke with Angela Mingo of Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Rev. John Edgar of Community Development for All People to learn more about their health/housing partnership and how it came to be.

Why Food-Oriented Development Is Easier to Implement

You’ve heard of transit-oriented development. But food-oriented development might be easier to generate. 

Seven Tips to Help You Forge Health and Housing Partnerships

About 80 percent of a person’s health status can be attributed to non-medical factors such as housing and income.

How *Not* to Connect Health and Community Development

A few months ago as I walked to a board meeting of my local CDFI, I passed a memorial to a young man who...
A female doctor t the Daughters of Charity Health Center in New Orleans wears a white lab coat with a stethoscope and stands next to an African American woman, who is wearing a black shirt.

A Look at a Medical, Legal Aid Partnership in New Orleans

A health center has partnered with a legal services agency to better help patients by addressing the social determinants of health. This “medical-legal partnership” is part of a growing trend that’s taking place across the nation.
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar.

Medicaid Dollars for Housing?

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary says his department is exploring ideas to pay for non-health services like housing and nutrition with Medicaid, but it’s unclear whether that would, or could, actually happen.
Children play on an Irish Traveller site on Dale Farm in 2011. A young boy with glasses rubs his eyes outside in Dale Farm, which was once the site of the largest Irish Traveller concentration until families were evicted in 2011. A health impact assessment helped house this indigenous group.

How a Health Impact Assessment Helped House Irish Travellers

An HIA that focused on Irish Traveller housing programs proves successful because it empowered the population.

The Affordable Care Act: Implications for Community Development

Even if you have not tuned out of the long-running debate about the future of health care in the United States, you can be...

Healthy Foods, Strong Communities

Fresh fruits and veggies are good for more than just your health.
Four hands holding money up in the air.

Which Agencies Should Pay to End Family Homelessness?

When families have stable housing, the benefits are widespread. And perhaps that has been the problem.

Transforming Vacant Land Into Community Assets

Vacant land activities can be low cost and high impact; the price of failure is not steep, but the return on investment can be high.
migrant farm workers

Shelter Shorts—The Week in Community Development, April 27

Climate Gentrification | A Marijuana Tax for Housing? | Homeownership Alone Can't Close the Wealth Gap | Illegal ICE Raids on Farms | Keeping An Eye on Opportunity Zones | More...

Forget Red and Blue States: Go Green for Better Jobs, Health, and Environment

How do you win an election in any red Southern state? If you are running as a senator, the conventional wisdom is you condemn government as an enemy of working families.
A hemodialysis machine in a bedroom.

A Bad Mix: Utility Shut-Offs and Chronic Illnesses

In most states, a household can avoid or delay termination of its utility service due to overdue balances if the shut-off would significantly impact their health. But the process isn’t as simple as it may seem
The Whittier Street Health Center.

Healthy Futures Fund to Connect Health and Housing Practitioners

Building affordable housing with integrated health services. Health centers in low-income neighborhoods.These are goals of a $100M investment fund.

Foreclosing on Our Health?

In a dangerous cycle, medical bills are a common cause of foreclosure—and the stress and financial crisis of foreclosure causes an increase in serious health problems.
Several workers stand on a partially finished home with white insulation around the foundation.

Green Is Affordable

The affordable housing movement has not only accepted green building, but is making it integral to its work.
peeling paint windowsill

Is a Home with Lead Hazards Really “Affordable”?

The cost of housing is not simply the mortgage, rent, and utilities, but the individual and community health, education, and social costs associated with low-quality, unstable, and unhealthy housing.

Health and Community Development Resources

If you want to explore the intersection of health and community development further, here are some places to start.
A lightbulb is on in a dark room. The utility company has kept the lights on.

When Domestic Violence and Utility Bill Debt Intersect

In Pennsylvania, domestic violence survivors are often not afforded the protections they are entitled to because many people are often unaware of the Responsible Utility Customer Protection Act and its provisions. A three-year pilot program aimed to change that.
A senior housing building at Mercy Housing Southeast’s Mercy Park development.

Why Health and Housing Partnerships Are Hard

Housing managers and health providers are natural partners for health care programming, but misunderstandings and institutional mismatches can get in the way.
an IV drip

A Marketplace for Health and Housing to Exchange Money—Has the Time Come?

Why would there be a need for a marketplace that values health? The answer is simple: our current “investments” in health are not working.

Organizing for Hospital Community Benefits

Community development corporations need to become more educated about hospital community benefits. This is what can be done to get the process started.

In Schools, Eliminating Poverty Stigma Could End Child Hunger

More Americans live in high-poverty neighborhoods than ever before, according to a recent Century Foundation report, and many of...
An African-American man gets his blood pressure checked at the California Hotel, an EBALDC development that offers affordable apartments with community and commercial spaces.

Approaching Partnerships Between Health Care Institutions and Community Development Organizations

There isn’t an exact science to forming partnerships. The slow and sometimes messy process requires patience, allies, and trust.

Prescription for a Legal Advocate

When we wrote in 2006 about Boston Medical Center's program to link patients to lawyers who could help improve their...

Doctors Join the Fight Against Speculators

Housing crises are health crises. Toxic mold causes asthma. Lack of heat weakens immune systems. Unaffordability causes stress. Forced choices between paying the rent and paying for medical care or food lead to poor health. Around the country, health care institutions that recognize this have started to employ lawyers onsite to help patients fight landlords for better housing conditions or qualify for housing subsidies (plus a range of other legal supports that will generally have direct effect on their health).
Alicia Spradlin and her daughter Faith live in apartments that have been set-aside for UnitedHealthcare Community Plan members.

Setting Aside Housing for Frequent Health Care Users

Housing specifically for those who frequently use health care services makes sense on many levels, but it also raises questions about privacy and lining up who pays and who benefits.

Hearts on Fire (Fighting Organizer Burnout)

I have always thought of my movement work as a demanding, aggravating and irresistible lover - one it's impossible to marry, or to leave....

Moving Hospital and Health System Investments Upstream

Across the country, nonprofit hospitals are under intense scrutiny due to the discrepancy between the substantial revenues they generate compared to the level of...

Urban Institute Report Highlights Health and Housing Links

There have been many studies, reports, and articles throughout the years that highlight the correlation between a person's housing...
Pogue’s Run Grocer Mural, an initiative of the Indy Food Co-op.

Done Right, Eliminating Food Deserts Result in Community Oases

While eliminating food deserts often involves resources from outside of the community, a neighborhood must maintain control of its assets and identity.

Unsorting Our Cities

To improve the health of residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods, we have to address inequality, not medical care.
Dr. Jim O’Connell sits on a patient's bed at Pine Street Inn Supportive Housing in Boston.

Not Just Partners, But Neighbors: Health Care in Affordable Housing Developments

Offering on-site health care in housing developments makes sense. But developing and managing housing and health care facilities can be very different. How do you make them work together?

Financial Incentives Encourage New Partnerships in Housing and Health

If you watch Downton Abbey, as I do, you know that Lord Grantham is becoming an affordable housing developer—much to his consternation. He’s been called on to help build a slate of new homes on a piece of his property in the wake of The Great War. But it was his answer to a question […]

Health and the Spaces Inbetween

Last year, we published a focus issue on health and community development. We called the package “Are Our Neighborhoods...

One Veteran’s Story

Michael Powell's journey from childhood poverty to military service and subsequent struggle with addiction is probably not unlike thousands of others who have served; but in listening to his story, you realize that somewhere along the way it may have become more complicated than it needed to be.
Two children, one wearing a blue shirt and other a pink shirt, play in the sand on a beach.

California’s New Environmental Movement

How communities of color, using health and jobs as rallying cries, took on Big Oil -- and won!

Developing Economic, Along with Physical, Health

Sue Joss and Jason Barbosa might seem to be unlikely economic development partners. She is the veteran CEO of a major nonprofit health care...

Financial Metrics Won’t Tell the Full Picture

Cost savings alone do not measure the full value of the collaboration between the health care and housing sectors.
The third installment of Shelterforce's Health and Community Development supplement.

Fall 2018 — Health and Community Development Supplement

In our third supplement, we focus on a coalition's work to lower the number of asthma-related hospital visits from an apartment complex, and how sitting on a porch can be good for your health. Click on the photo to download a copy.

Tools of the Trade: Measuring the Health-Related Returns of Community Development

Partnerships are becoming more the norm and less the exception, but how do we know that they are actually having a good effect on health, well-being, and economic opportunity?

Author Roundtable

Shelterforce authors discuss the roles of place, mobility, and displacement on health and neighborhoods.

Health and Housing: Where Should the Money Come From?

When we published our focus issue on health and housing and neighborhoods, one of the themes that came up in...

Foreclosures Are Making People Sick

[Editor's note: Shelterforce continues to discuss the connection between health and housing, and most recently devoted an entire issue to the topic. The op-ed below originally appeared in American Banker on November 3, 2014.] While foreclosure activity has declined since the peak of the mortgage crisis, millions of families are still at risk of losing […]

A New Responsibility for Children’s Hospitals: The Health of Neighborhoods

Children’s hospitals in Ohio are making key investments to address a major cause of poor health — substandard housing.
Child showing a story book to another child.

How This Museum Supports Community Integration and Trauma Recovery

Using artistic expression to de-stigmatize and treat trauma.
physician takes blood pressure

Shelter Shorts, The Week in Community Development—Sept. 21

News from—and affecting—the community development world.

Our Financial Reform, Our Health

The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future, by Joseph Stiglitz, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., June 2012. 448 pp. $27.95 (Hardcover). Available on Amazon.

The Intersection of Health Philanthropy and Housing

Health philanthropy and community development have historically worked on separate tracks. That’s changing. 
Tents line a Skid Row street in Los Angeles in 2015.

To Save On Medi-Cal Costs, a Bid to Help Homeless Patients With Rent Money

California lawmakers consider devoting an additional $90 million to subsidize rent for homeless patients.
Two people partake in the Healing Hands project.

Using Art to Create Community at a Clinic

Arts projects at a Minneapolis clinic created a natural connection between people who might not otherwise interact.
A Childlike drawing of a yellow house with a multicolored roof, cactuses in front, and a tree with Christmas lights in front.

Housing Quality Is Key to Mental Health

Living in substandard housing affects your mental health as well, several studies have found.
tents and tarps on a lot

Shelter Shorts—The Week in Community Development, April 6

Gentrification Is Bad For One's Health | Housing Teachers-At School | Protecting Space for Local Business | TOD Doesn't Have to Displace | Community Artists Win in Court | More . . .

What Responsibilities Do Institutions Have In Their Communities?

Universities need to take an active interest in maintaining and enhancing community stability.
Seniors at a workshop on creating winter bird feeders

Vermont’s SASH Program Keeps Seniors in their Homes

The statewide program connects elderly residents with community-based services and saves money in urban areas by reducing emergency room and specialist visits.

Prescription for a New Neighborhood

Housing mobility can complement community revitalization for children with serious health challenges. 

Getting the Lead Out: Controlling Lead Paint Hazards in Housing

Lead poisoning remains the foremost environmental health risk to American children, with just under one million children with elevated lead levels. While the average...

Cooking With Health, and Heritage, in Mind

A recent article in The New York Times discussed an initiative to bring fresh, healthy food to a low-income Bronx neighborhood in New York’s...

Better Together

The community development and health sectors can and should work together to reduce health disparities and improve everyone’s health.

When Supportive Housing Isn’t

The rationale behind supportive housing for people with mental disabilities is that pairing individualized services with permanent housing will help them live independently. But one San Francisco advocate sees more neglect than support.

Bridging Divides with Peer-to-Peer Strategies in Public Housing

Peer-to-peer strategies in public housing can keep residents engaged in programs offered within their respective communities by addressing cultural divides, trust issues, and employment barriers.
A smiling African-American man in a baseball cap sits at a table in a social lounge type room with other people in the background.

Keeping Seniors Healthy by Fostering Connections and Community

For high needs seniors with chronic illnesses, health is not merely—or even mostly—a matter for medical professionals.
Avalon Trace was renamed Cottage Gardens after the 176-unit complex was sold to a new owner in 2018.

Condemning Asthma, Not Homes in North Carolina

An apartment complex in North Carolina generated 120 times as many hospital visits as would have been expected for its population, until a creative coalition forced its sale and worked with the new owner to change things.

How the Community Reinvestment Act Can Help Flint

The audacious and callous decisions leading to the tragedy in Flint, Michigan are cruel and beyond comprehension. What is needed is an all-out effort...
Close-up image of links in a chain.

Look Outside the Box with Health and Housing Partnerships

Though it seems the connection between health and community development is on everyone’s lips these days, the two sectors are really still at the beginning stages of learning how to work together.