Cincinnati-area hospital systems now view housing as a community health need

CINCINNATI — For the first time, regional hospital systems are identifying housing as a community health need. Nearly two out of three homes are rentals in the city of Cincinnati. With soaring rents and regular evictions, researchers see links to medical needs.

“I’m trying to move into my own apartment, but it’s like, where do we go next?” said Tomeshia Baker, a single mother of three boys.

Baker works full time six or seven days a week. Yet her family has no home of their own. They have a temporary room with Baker’s sister.

“I’ve had many people turn around (and say) no, we’re not accepting Section 8 because of the pandemic,” Baker said. “People came and tore up our stuff and we don’t want that anymore. I contacted a landlord. I had an inspection on August 19. That inspector quit. They told me to reschedule the inspection So I was told to resubmit and start all over again. But it’s been months.

She fears that the landlord will rent the accommodation to someone else. Meanwhile, her children are suffering.

“My 13-year-old son isn’t like he used to be,” she said. “He’s depressed. He sleeps a lot. He doesn’t eat. My 7-year-old son isn’t doing very well in school. It depresses me more because I’m trying. Am I not doing enough for (my kids)? I don’t know. My mind is wandering. It’s a nightmare. I don’t wish this on my worst enemy. We don’t deserve this.”

Mercy Health and nine partners have spent a year advising and helping people pay their rent in Bond Hill and Roselawn. The report following the program found that 66% of these residents had a chronic illness or ongoing mental health issues. According to the report, 62% of Cincinnati residents rent. With hundreds of evictions occurring almost every week, concern reigns across the region.

This sentiment and other research supporting the links between housing and health motivated all health systems in the region to agree on an unprecedented decision.

Every three years, the systems meet to discuss the region’s most pressing needs. For the first time, housing is part of it.

“We have never seen a housing or social need like this explicitly named,” said Gina Hemenway, executive director of Mercy Health Community, Community Health. “So I think we’ve elevated that in conversational terms.”

Mercy Health wants to provide more support for programs and advocacy that have been proven to keep people on the brink of eviction or foreclosure, Hemenway said.

Baker just wants better results from the voucher program run by the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority.

An ACSM spokesperson said the agency was following federal guidelines in Baker’s case.

“The Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority is following federal guidelines for the Housing Choice Voucher Program,” said Lesley Wardlow, Senior Communications Coordinator for ACSM. “The unit Ms. Baker selected was not a reasonable (affordable) rent. After the landlord agreed to adjust the rent, ACSM contacted the landlord to schedule the Housing Quality Standards Inspection and September 6 was the earliest the unit would be ready for an inspection The unit failed the inspection due to infestation and electrical issues ACSM cannot approve a contract on a property exhibiting these issues.The owner has had the opportunity to correct the deficiencies and now we are awaiting notification that they have been corrected so a re-inspection may take place.

“There have been no delays in processing documents for this unit. ACSM has no shortage of inspectors and none have quit.

“HUD has strict rules that do not allow ACSM to refer residents to a particular landlord or community for housing. As such, families are provided with resources to assist them in their search process. ACSM Invites Landlords to List Available Rentals on [] and present their properties to the HCV Your Rental Connection. Families can also use ads in newspapers, rental magazines, etc. to help them in their search. »

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