Housing is an important determinant of health and opportunity. Substandard housing is linked to a variety of health problems, including respiratory infections, asthma, lead poisoning, injuries, and mental illness. The opportunity to access quality housing free from these health harming conditions is not evenly distributed across Delaware County. People of color and people with low-income are disproportionately impacted by these defective homes.

Recognizing this inextricable connection between housing, health, and opportunity, the foundation has expanded our programming to focus on the need for stable, affordable, and safe permanent housing affecting our program participants’ ability to birth healthy babies and foster healthy families. The Housing Opportunities Program for Equity (HOPE) includes housing policy advocacy, case management, placement, tenant rights education, financial literacy, referral services, and direct financial relief. The project was established in November 2019 through funding by the Pennsylvania Department of Economic Development (DCED) as part of the Neighborhood Assistance Program.

Why is The HOPE Program needed?

Having a home that is safe and devoid of physical hazards is essential for good health. When families are dealing with a leaky roof, mold in their home, rent insecurity, it can be impossible to focus on a healthy pregnancy and other family demands.

Delaware County has the second highest Black/White residential segregation among all ranked counties in the Commonwealth. It also has the second highest non-White/White segregation. This inequity significantly impacts communities of color by reducing housing opportunity and further widening the healthful housing gap.

According to County Health Rankings:

  • 16% of Delaware County households experience at least one of these housing problems – overcrowding, high housing costs, lack of kitchen facilities or lack of plumbing facilities – the sixth highest rate of severe housing problems among the counties in Pennsylvania.
  • 15% of households spend 50% or more of their household income on housing – the fifth highest rate of severe housing cost in Pennsylvania.

While housing insecurity and conditions were exacerbated and worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, the inequities associated with healthful affordable housing are not new and will certainly persist if systemic improvements are not made now.

What other resources can be accessed through the program?

We have established a strong partnership with the Chester Housing Authority (CHA), through which CHA provides (when available) 10 housing choice vouchers and 10 public housing vouchers to be specifically utilized by participants in the foundation’s home-visiting programs. Our housing stability team work closely with participants to ensure they are prepared and supported throughout the process of obtaining their new home.

In addition to having the support of case managers, nurses, health educators, and social workers, our Medical/Legal Partnership (HELP:MLP) program also offers legal assistance to clients who need help exercising their legal rights as they navigate issues that arise in public and private housing. Funding has been raised to support moving expenditures and essential financial needs, such as security deposits, rent, and utilities.

What has been accomplished? 

The housing program is a classic example of nonprofits combining resources to deliver enhanced service, said Steven A. Fischer, Executive Director of the Chester Housing Authority. “In operation for a year now, it has proven to be effective in housing younger families. By bringing together a multi-disciplinary team, we can better assist and educate consumers on the housing search itself, and on becoming good tenants in their community which ultimately reduces eviction rates. In 2020 as we experience the pandemic and staying home has been the mantra, it has proven to be that much more valuable.”

We have seen firsthand the transformative impact of healthful housing on family health, wellbeing, and community engagement. Participants who have secured housing placements through the foundation’s housing support services experience improved living conditions, such as:

  • Better relationships with landlords;
  • Reduced stress;
  • Improved childhood health and sleep among children;
  • Improved living conditions;
  • Increased access to the outdoors and local parks, public transportation and stores, and community-sponsored activities;
  • Decreased neighborhood violence; and
  • Heightened community engagement.

For more information contact Jordan Casey: Jcasey@delcofoundation.org or 610-619-6051.

Learn more about how Healthy Start and the Nurse-Family Partnership are improving maternal and children’s health care.