Blue Cross gives $648K in 2024 community grants to address housing-related health inequities

PROVIDENCE – Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island announced it has awarded $648,000 in community grants through its annual BlueAngel Community Health Grants program to organizations addressing housing-related health inequities.

The funding includes $313,000 for five organizations being awarded new grants and an additional $335,000 in transitional funding for five grantees from 2023 to continue their initiatives, according to a news release.

The projects address a variety of housing issues that are crucial for well-being, including housing and wraparound services for families with children, housing and outreach to those who are facing homelessness, as well as housing support and advocacy for those with substance disorder.

“Too many Rhode Islanders face significant health-related needs and housing continues to be one of the most challenging areas,” said Blue Cross CEO and President Martha L. Wofford. “We’re proud to partner with community organizations who share our unwavering commitment to improved access to safe and affordable housing and a healthier and more equitable Rhode Island.”

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The following five organizations and projects have been chosen to receive 2024 grants:

  • Foster Forward – Using a Housing First approach to house youths/young adults ages 18-24 who are facing housing instability and homelessness and are at-risk of system involvement. The grant will fund the Your Way Home program, a short-term crisis intervention that provides rental assistance and case management services.
  • Child & Family Services of Newport County – Child & Family’s Supportive Housing Program in Newport provides safe, secure housing to homeless families that come from throughout the state. Through participation in this program, parents are provided with wraparound case management and access to a continuum of care that provides the resources necessary for them to secure permanent housing and improve the overall health and well-being of their families.
  • Thundermist Healthcare Center – Housing support specialists work in partnership with people who are or are in danger of becoming unhoused, to build resources that promote independence, ensure that they can meet the obligations of tenancy, and successfully obtain and maintain housing. Specialists guide patients through paperwork and connect them to resources for legal and financial support to gain or retain permanent housing.
  • Project Weber/RENEW – Supports housing for people who have substance use disorder and people in early recovery, including assistance with expungement of criminal records and advocacy and education at the state level on policies and practices around Housing First and harm reduction models.
  • House of Hope Community Development Corp. – Preserve and upgrade 20 units of existing permanent affordable housing units in Warwick for men, women and children and, in collaboration with Amenity Aid, promote community health through the distribution of hygiene supplies across the state. House of Hope CDC Street outreach teams will use the hygiene kits as a trust-building engagement tool.

To help build programs that have shown success, organizations are eligible and encouraged to apply for transitional funding a year after being awarded a BlueAngel Community Health Grant. This year a total of $335,000 in transitional funding is being provided to the following: Adoption Rhode Island, Habitat for Humanity of South County, Jonnycake Center for Hope, West Elmwood Housing Development Corp., and Westbay Community Action Inc.

The 2024 awards bring the insurer’s five-year total investment in affordable housing to nearly $2.7 million. Since the grant program began in 2002, Blue Cross has donated more than $6.9 million to local organizations, funding efforts that have affected more than 336,000 Rhode Islanders, according to the release.

Blue Cross says its philanthropy is guided, in part, by the annual RI Life Index, which is a statewide survey of Rhode Islanders administered in partnership with the Brown University School of Public Health. The index, now in its sixth year, has consistently shown that access to safe, stable and affordable housing is a top concern for Rhode Islanders. A year after the affordable housing index score fell from 40 to 33, the results remained consistent at 32 in 2023. High interest rates and home prices, low vacancy rates and rising rents continue to limit housing affordability for Rhode Island families, according to the release.

“The RI Life Index, since its very first year, has underscored that housing is perceived by Rhode Islanders to be one of the most significant barriers to health and well-being in our state and led us to begin directing our health grants toward housing-related programs,” said Blue Cross Managing Director of Corporate Social Responsibility Carolyn Belisle. “The index’s annual results continue to demonstrate the urgency of supporting organizations committed to working proactively and effectively to develop housing solutions. As in previous years, we’re pleased that our community partners are addressing the critical needs of a highly diverse and vulnerable group of Rhode Islanders.”

Funding is made available through the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island Community Health Fund, a donor-advised fund at the Rhode Island Foundation. The grant selection process began in July with a call for letters of intent.

More information about the grant program is available at bcbsri.com/about/blueangel.

Katie Castellani is a PBN staff writer. You may contact her at Castellani@PBN.com.