Where we live can either help or harm our health. Stable housing and safe housing conditions protect individuals and families from harmful exposures and provides them with a sense of stability and control. In contrast, unsafe housing conditions such as mold, disrepair and poor indoor air quality, and inadequate housing such as overcrowded spaces and couch surfing, contribute to health problems such as stress-related illnesses, infections, chronic diseases, injuries and poor childhood development, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The health benefits of affordable housing are clear. The Center for Housing Policy states that affordable housing alleviates crowding and makes more household resources available to pay for health care and healthy food, which leads to better health outcomes. Additionally, stable and affordable housing also supports mental health by limiting stressors related to financial burden or frequent moves or by offering an escape from an abusive home environment. Even more, home ownership produces many positive mental health benefits as homeowners feel empowered and have control over their environment.
FSSA’s 2-1-1 division helps Hoosiers with housing and other needs
Addressing housing needs is one of the many points of assistance provided by 211, a division of FSSA. 2-1-1is a free, confidential service that assists Hoosiers across the state find the local resources that they need—housing, food, health care, etc. Indiana 2-1-1 is operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in all 92 counties.
“Having Indiana 2-1-1 as a part of FSSA provides us a greater opportunity to connect clients with community-based and with state resources,” says Peggy Welch, FSSA’s Chief Advocacy Officer.
The scope of what 2-1-1 can provide is vast and includes help with housing, utility and legal resources. For example, 2-1-1 can assist a caller with a mold problem that a landlord won’t address and can help connect callers to resources if they are having trouble paying utility bills.
“Our goal is to empower people to help themselves,” explained Jaimie Ferren, 211 interim director. “Learning how to navigate resources is half the battle. We assist our callers access the services they need. Our job is to educate and encourage people.”
The PourHouse, FSSA reaches out to homeless Hoosiers
FSSA has partnered with The PourHouse, an organization that helps those experiencing homelessness to overcome barriers, such as housing and health care. Through community-style street outreach and peer advocacy, The Pourhouse connects with people who do not see traditional service providers. They work one-on-one with individuals to help them work towards and accomplish life goals. They also distribute much needed items, such as clothes, food and hygiene products, every day.
Our surroundings either help or hamper our growth and development. This is especially true with our housing, but it can also include our neighborhood, nearby greenspaces and public infrastructures like sidewalks, roads and bridges. When our surroundings provide us with a sense of stability and control, we are more likely to have stronger physical and mental health. Conversely, when we have inadequate housing, we are more susceptible to long-term or chronic health problems and poor childhood development. If we want to impact the health of our communities, focusing on the “built environment” is a certain way to positively influence it.