The Rapidian

The Healthy Homes Coalition works to keep children's housing safe

As Grand Rapids continues to grow, how do we make sure there is enough healthy, affordable housing for families?
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About NPO Showcase

NPO Showcase highlights nonprofit and government organizations and the work that they're doing in our community. The program is a feature of GRTV, a service of the Community Media Center, with producer and host Julie Way. You can catch it on GRTV on Saturdays at 8 AM and 6 PM and can view past episodes on the Grand Rapids Community Media Center website. If your nonprofit would like to be interviewed on NPO Showcase, please contact Julie Way.

Asthma is a common, chronic condition in our community, affecting 1 of out 10 kids in Grand Rapids. While asthma is partially caused by genetics, environmental factors in your home can also trigger asthma.

“If the air in that house where the child lives is not clean, that child can suffer some very significant consequences,” says Paul Haan, Executive Director of the Healthy Homes Coalition. He notes moisture in housing, dust mites, and mold as the top environmental factors that affect asthma in Grand Rapids.

The Healthy Homes Coalition believes that no child should grow up in a home that negatively impacts his or her health. “There’s actually a wide range of things in older housing particularly that can affect kids. We’re an outgrowth of an effort to combat childhood lead poisoning in Grand Rapids,” says Haan.

“We listened to the words of a neighbor, who said, ‘It was great that you helped me out with the lead in my house. But what about the other things that affect kids in my neighborhood?’”

In addition to asthma and lead poisoning, the Coalition also focuses on issues such as indoor air quality, pests, and accidental injury. Maintaining the seven principles of healthy housing can help ensure that the home environment is healthy for kids.

The Coalition provides direct services for referred families, but focuses their efforts in providing education and advocating for policy changes. Haan notes that West Michigan legislators have been great champions for their work. “What we’ve learned when we do education or policy is that we can affect multiple children with one effort. When you’re in the home, it’s very important works, but it’s one by one by one.”

Safe housing for kids and families is an issue that affects the future of our community, and something we need to plan for as Grand Rapids continues to grow. “I think there’s this larger conversation about housing right now that I think is really important….As we look at things about making more of an urban community, maybe more densely populated, are we planning for good, safe, affordable housing for families, as well as all those other groups we’d like to attract – millennials, talent, workers?” says Haan.

“We also need to be thinking, are we bringing in enough larger units for families, or are we setting up a system where we’re suggesting that maybe going to live in those older houses that are poorly maintained is good enough?”

Meet Haan and learn more about how the Healthy Homes Coalition works to help families eliminate environmental factors that can negatively impact health in GRTV’s NPO Showcase interview above, or catch it airing on GRTV and LiveWire starting Monday. You can also find more details on their website.

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