CHOP, Habitat for Humanity to repair West Philly homes to improve health outcomes

A worker replaces a main electrical service line on a home

A worker replaces a main electrical service line on a home. (Courtesy of PHDC)

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia hopes to improve health outcomes for kids by repairing the homes they live in, thanks to a $1 million investment from Bank of America.

CHOP will select more than 100 homes in West and Southwest Philadelphia — where one-third of children live below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census American Community Survey.

CHOP already helps asthma patients by reducing triggers in the home, like mold and dust, as part of its Community Asthma Prevention Program Plus.

The hospital’s new program, Block Builds, will be open to families who aren’t CHOP or asthma patients. The repairs will be led by Habitat for Humanity and other BIPOC and women contractors identified through the Enterprise Center.

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Up to 80% of a child’s health and well-being is linked to social behaviors, socioeconomic factors, and environmental factors, studies find.

“If we’re really going to change outcomes for children, if we’re really going to make children healthy, stable, and educated adults, we really have to look at where they live, learn, play, and sleep, and we have to make those places safe and healthy,” said Dr. Tyra Bryant-Stephens, director and founder of the Community Asthma Prevention Program and Chief Health Equity Officer for the Center for Health Equity at CHOP.

The repairs will be exterior, such as roof repairs, or directing water away from the house, said Kyonne Isaac, homeowner services manager for Habitat for Humanity, Philadelphia.

“When moisture gets into the home, it’s the start of a lot of other problems that can just really snowball and make living in the home really unsafe from either a structural standpoint or a health standpoint,” she said. “With moisture coming in, we’re looking at mold. Moisture also attracts dust and pet resident pests. Those pests not only are an irritant, but they leave behind residue that can contribute to really poor air quality indoors if it builds up.”

Osarugue Osa-Edoh, a housing attorney for Community Legal Services and CHOP, said there’s strong demand for the home repair program. CLS finds that people of color and people with low incomes report having more repair issues in the home, she said.

Osa-Edoh hopes the program will expand to renters in the future. Renters surveyed by CLS reported that they did not feel comfortable requesting repairs from their landlord.

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“There’s definitely a fear. There’s definitely a very real sense that low-income communities and communities of color understand this power imbalance, and so try to not rock the boat as much, which means not requesting repairs, just paying the rent, trying to work with the landlord and, therefore, living in unsafe conditions longer,” Osa-Edoh said.

She said she hopes the program will make a significant impact on the community.

“We will see an increase in community engagement, an increase in engagement with medical appointments,” Osa-Edoh said. “We’ll see more students coming to school and being attentive and being ready to learn, and we’ll see an impact throughout all these different sectors in our city and in our community that are so directly affected with whether the home is both safe and healthy and stable.”

Broke in PhillyWHYY is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.

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