Beginning in 2015, our Trustees and staff embarked on a journey to deepen our understanding of the social determinants of health, in particular the intersection of health and stable housing.
This journey led us into opportunities including, the commissioning of a research summary by Bradley Corallo and Alyx McKinnon titled, “Connecting Health and Housing,” and participation in two Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) funded efforts: Invest Health and Connect Capital. We served as coordinator for Connect Capital Richmond, a two-year initiative administered by the Center for Community Investment.
These initiatives, coupled with the recommendations of the first and second classes of Equity + Health Fellows, led to the unanimous adoption of the FY2020-2022 RMHF Strategic Framework by our Trustees. By adopting this Framework, the Trustees reaffirmed our mission and values and affirmed our aim to advance health equity and reduce health disparities, with an eye towards cultivating a health equity movement in our region.
Building a collective health equity movement, one that is rooted in the belief that community health is improved when economic opportunity exists for everyone, will be critical towards realizing our mission of fostering an equitable and healthy Richmond region. This strategic focus is being implemented through a two-year grant program with an explicit emphasis on:
- Anti-displacement housing strategies that recognize the connection between health and stable housing
- Strategies that increase opportunities for neighborhood choice throughout the Richmond region
- Activities that promote housing stability and eviction diversion
- Efforts that amplify community voice, build community power and facilitate equitable decision making.
In response to the recommendations of both cohorts of Equity + Health Fellows, at least 50 percent of funding has been allocated to advance policy and advocacy efforts. Funding awards are for two years of [general operating] support.
Specific Areas of Interest
Discrimination in Housing
HUD estimates that more than two million instances of housing discrimination still occur each year. Discrimination leads to housing instability and stress or trauma, which directly impact health and well-being of already marginalized individuals. Until recently when Governor Northam signed the Virginia Values Act into law, sexual orientation, gender identity and source of income (use of a voucher) were not considered “protected classes” by federal or Virginia law.
We invest in partners working to advance housing policy through a health lens, with the goal of reversing and eliminating discriminatory practices that keep marginalized groups from accessing and remaining in affordable housing.
Mobility and Economic Opportunity
Concentrated, generational poverty in Richmond has led to dramatic differences in life expectancy by zip code (20 year gap, 5 miles apart). Investing to improve mobility and housing choice creates opportunities for people to be healthier. Mobility improves access to healthier foods, better education, greater safety, reduced stress, better living conditions, and other social determinants of health.
We seek to improve mobility by expanding the utilization of housing subsidies and strengthening economic stability.
Evictions and housing instability lead to extreme stress and disruption, which can have significant impacts on health.
We fund initiatives that prioritize housing retention for unstable renters. We also invest in organizations engaged in policy and advocacy efforts to impact housing stability.