2019 Lead Poisoning Prevention Grants: Equipping Communities for Action through the National Lead Poisoning Prevention Network

In an ongoing effort to prevent and respond to childhood lead exposure, the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) awarded grants to applicants from nine localities as part of its Equipping Communities for Action initiative. Under the initiative, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with additional support from The New York Community Trust, the grantees will each receive 18 months of coaching and support including access to national experts, engagement in a peer learning network, a customized analysis calculating the cost of childhood lead exposure and the economic benefits of interventions, and a $25,000 grant.

There is great potential for improving population health and upending health inequities by addressing lead exposure, especially among low-income communities and communities of color. Many communities have developed and implemented best practices, while a growing group of communities are actively seeking solutions. Still others have started on the path toward creating lead-safe environments but need assistance in transforming sporadic action into a sustained strategy. Under the proposed work, NCHH and a network of partners will support communities who are at various levels of readiness in achieving their lead poisoning prevention goals.

Partners supporting the initiative and enhancing guidance related to legal strategies, community leader engagement, cost analysis, and specific point sources of lead include representatives from Altarum, ChangeLab Solutions, Earthjustice, Environmental Defense Fund, and the National League of Cities.

The awarded projects will build local capacity and advance evidence-based lead poisoning prevention efforts through policy and systems change. Specific projects include activities to strengthen local policies and housing codes, increase enforcement of existing lead-safe work practice laws, implement proactive rental inspection requirements, create a local lead-safe housing directory, and intensify community engagement to activate local officials in supporting the development and implementation of proposed policy and systems changes.

The 2019 award recipients will complete their proposed activities by October 31, 2020.

The 2019 Grantees

Central Maine Community Health/Healthy Androscoggin, Lewiston, Maine
Representing Androscoggin County in central Maine, Healthy Androscoggin will use their 2019 Lead Poisoning Prevention Grant to prevent childhood lead poisoning and improve housing in the municipalities of Lewiston and Auburn. Within the broader mission of increasing the accessibility of healthy housing, this public health-focused nonprofit proposes to engage decision makers to establish the most impactful policy improvements and utilize innovative approaches to reduce lead exposure. This will include creating strategies unique to each city that consider the economic and community development benefits of prevention. Working collaboratively with the Healthy Neighborhood Planning Council and other lead poisoning prevention partners statewide, Healthy Androscoggin will increase the awareness of effective and innovative approaches to reduce lead poisoning.

Childhood Lead Action Project, Providence, Rhode Island
Established in 1992, the Childhood Lead Action Project is dedicated to eliminating childhood lead poisoning in Rhode Island through education, parent support, and advocacy. With the help of this bundled award, the nonprofit will increase community member education and capacity to engage decision makers to design and implement a lead certificate renewal system. With tailored coaching and support, the Childhood Lead Action Project will also identify ways to leverage and increase enforcement of existing lead-safe work practice laws at the local level. These strategies will aid the Childhood Lead Action Project as they mobilize Providence residents to effect system change and improve local government capacity to address lead poisoning prevention.

City of Buffalo, Buffalo, New York
Comprised of 17 departments, the City of Buffalo’s mission is to ensure the health, welfare, and safety of its residents and visitors. This local government administration has a variety of programs, including those that improve local economic conditions and sustain a strong affordable housing market. Securing this bundled award will support the City of Buffalo’s effort to prevent lead exposure and provide safe rental housing by implementing a focused, integrated strategy to effectuate an interior inspection requirement for all rental units in the city. Buffalo’s proposed cross-sector, collaborative approach includes partnerships with the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and the Lead Safe Task Force, as well as parents and other grassroots groups, to develop and implement a rental unit inspection program that includes tenant education and supportive measures to assist landlords with compliance.

City of Paterson (Division of Health), Paterson, New Jersey
Located in Passaic County, the City of Paterson Division of Health’s chief responsibility is to improve health outcomes among its residents. Within the larger effort of addressing environmental health concerns on public and private property, this local government agency looks to use the support of this bundled award to create a comprehensive lead mitigation strategy for the city and develop a tool for prospective renters to identify safe homes. This tool will include a lead-safe housing directory that will make lead-safe homes easily identifiable and accessible. In addition to these goals within the grant period, the City of Paterson Division of Health also intends to build citywide capacity to coordinate lead poisoning prevention efforts among local partners, advocacy groups, and community residents.

Environmental Health Watch, Cleveland, Ohio
Serving the city of Cleveland, Environmental Health Watch is dedicated to creating healthy homes and sustainable communities by advancing equitable environmental solutions. The primary focus of this nonprofit’s work through this 2019 Lead Poisoning Prevention Grant will be to expand and formalize an engagement platform, produce community outreach campaigns, and advocate for legislation to combat the root causes of health disparities regarding lead and healthy housing issues. In partnership with the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition (LSCC), Environmental Health Watch will achieve its goals by creating a community outreach program and formalizing the LSCC engagement committee. United Way is chairing the LSCC summit committee and will host the Cleveland Lead Safe Home Summit on July 21, 2019.

Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Born out of the Get the Lead Out! collaborative in 2006, the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan is investing in families to ensure safe and healthy homes environments for children. Through community organizing and direct services, this organization eliminates environmental hazards and harmful housing conditions. The Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan will use this 2019 Lead Poisoning Prevention Grant to engage community members to activate state and local officials and to implement a proactive code enforcement ordinance, with a focus on heavily impacted ZIP codes. Working with key partners including Public Agency, City Hall, the Kent County Health Department, and the Parents for Healthy Homes campaign, the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan will proactively address and provide solutions for lead-poisoned children and families residing in the most heavily impacted neighborhoods in Grand Rapids.

Legal Services of Central New York, Utica, New York
Legal Services of Central New York, a nonprofit law firm providing free legal help to people in need, will use this bundled award as part of a coordinated effort to change public policy and expand access to healthy and affordable housing in Utica, New York. Legal Services of Central New York intends to hire a full-time community organizer focused on engaging the community in lead poisoning awareness and prevention. Comprised of a team of 40 attorneys serving 13 counties in Central New York, Legal Services of Central New York will partner with the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties and the Lead-Free Mohawk Valley Coalition to achieve their project goals and their broader mission to remove civil legal barriers to health.

Southern United Neighborhoods, New Orleans, Louisiana
Founded in 2010, Southern Untied Neighborhoods advocates for the rights of and works to bring equity to low-income people and communities. With this bundled award, this regional nonprofit aims to advance their mission of dismantling poverty by creating policy recommendations for comprehensive and total lead poisoning prevention. By collaborating with the Louisiana Roundtable for the Environment, Southern United Neighborhoods will build community support and expand the scope of this coalition to effect policy change regarding housing rehabilitation and support services for children poisoned by lead.

Virginia Poverty Law Center, Richmond, Virginia
Established in 1978, the Virginia Poverty Law Center (VPLC) works to end systemic income inequality and poverty by expanding access to civil justice to low-income citizens of Virginia. With the help of this grant, this legal aid focused nonprofit plans to draft legislation to reduce lead-based paint hazards in low-income rental housing in the city of Richmond. The VPLC also intends to form and support a coalition to sustain advocacy efforts for lead-safe housing. Collaborating with a multitude of local and national organizations, the VPLC will engage community organizers and partner them with community lawyers to best inform and engage at-risk residents. This proposed work during this grant period will reinforce the VPLC’s broader mission to provide economic and environmental justice to low-income Virginians.

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