Boston Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital will invest nearly $3 million over three years into housing stability through the Innovative Stable Housing Initiative (ISHI), a pilot project with the goal to identify, assess, and fund strategic approaches to increase housing stability for Greater Boston’s most vulnerable populations.
“Often, what patients need to become healthy is not medical treatment, but a prescription for the root cause of what is preventing them from getting well, like housing,” says Thea James, MD, Vice President of Mission and Associate Chief Medical Officer at Boston Medical Center. “This collaboration between Boston Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital will help address the housing disparities that many of our patients and neighbors face on a daily basis. By partnering with community organizations and residents who are most often left out of decisions and most at risk for displacement to be part of the decision-making process, we can make a measurable difference in the health of communities.”
The initiative marks the first time these Boston hospitals are working together to invest in housing as a social determinant of health through multiple investment approaches. Each hospital’s investment is part of an agreement with Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Determination of Need (DoN) Community Health Initiative. Using a participatory grantmaking process, hospitals are partnering with community organizations throughout the decision-making process, from planning and research to the design and implementation.
“Boston Children’s is pleased to be joining with and working in collaboration with BMC and the Brigham to address the issue of housing,” says Shari Nethersole, MD, Executive Director for community health at Boston Children’s. “As a pediatric health care institution, it’s important for us to look at how unstable housing affects a child’s overall and long-term health and well-being. This is an incredible opportunity to leverage our resources and support strategies that will keep children in their homes and help families to access more suitable housing.”
To streamline its work, ISHI is comprised of three funds. The first is a Flex Fund, supported by all three hospitals, which aims to increase access to resources for individuals and families to maintain or attain stable housing. Consultation with the community showed that existing funds for housing stabilization were insufficient to meet the need and eligibility criteria often limited access for residents experiencing housing instability. The ISHI flex fund seeks to fill that gap. After a thorough RFP review process, three organizations, Casa Myrna Vasquez, Urban Revival, and Homestart have been selected and will receive grants totaling nearly $500,000 for one year.
The second is an Upstream Fund, supported by Boston Medical Center and Boston Children’s, which strives to support policy and systems change efforts around stable housing. The third is a Resident-Led planning process, supported by Boston Medical Center, which aims to engage Boston’s working-class people of color to design a separate grantmaking process. This will also engage the Center for Economic Democracy, Boston Ujima Project, and Right to the City in the process.
“Health and housing are inextricably linked,” says Wanda McClain, Vice President of Community Health and Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Partnering with BMC and Boston Children’s provides a unique opportunity for us, as health care institutions, to improve health outcomes and decrease health inequities by addressing this pressing need.”
Facilitated by Health Resources in Action, over the last 18 months ISHI has engaged over 100 housing advocates, healthcare providers, and community residents through key informant interviews, focus groups, feedback sessions, and an Advisory Committee.
Learn more about ISHI and current grant opportunities at ISHIBoston.org