At a September 17 briefing for Congressional staff, the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI) discussed its work coordinating public, private, and nonprofit resources in order to improve housing conditions, highlighting the educational, economic, and medical benefits that result. GHHI President and CEO Ruth Ann Norton presented Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) with a Distinguished Service Award for her ongoing support of GHHI.
According to Ms. Norton, more than nine million families in the U.S. live in unhealthy environments that cause medical problems such as asthma, lead poisoning, and trip-and-fall injuries, accounting for $82.4 billion in annual medical expenditures. Asthma-related medical issues cause students to miss 14 million school days each year, but children in households served by GHHI have a 60% reduction in asthma-related hospitalizations and a 62% increase in the number of students not missing school due to asthma. Households served by GHHI have saved an average of more than $400 annually on energy costs.
Ms. Norton emphasized that although there are several organizations assisting households with poor living conditions, the system is often fragmented and therefore difficult to navigate. For example, in Baltimore, where GHHI began its work, there are 238 lines of funding that could potentially help a struggling household, all with different applications and eligibility requirements. GHHI replaces this confusing system with a single intake portal and coordinates funding and services from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. GHHI operate in 17 cities and has a goal of expanding to 60 cities within three years.
Ed Blake, Executive Director of Salt Lake Valley Habitat for Humanity, in Utah extolled the effectiveness of the GHHI model, which has allowed him to coordinate the services of medical providers, local governments, and other nonprofit organizations. Buffalo, NY Mayor Byron Brown reported that since 2011, GHHI has leveraged $7 million, improving 373 homes.
Shawana Ramirez, one of GHHI’s Baltimore clients, spoke about her son who was diagnosed with asthma when he was an infant. The severity of his asthma led to many time-consuming trips to the emergency room and intensive care, causing Ms. Ramirez to resign as a Baltimore police officer. Since GHHI improved their house two years ago, her son, now five years old, has not been hospitalized for asthma. “He’s doing great, and even playing baseball,” said Ms. Ramirez.
More information about the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative is at www.ghhi.org