BCBSRI gives $648K in 2024 community grants to programs focused on housing as the foundation of health

 BCBSRI gives $648K in 2024 community grants to programs focused on housing as the foundation of health
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PROVIDENCE, RI — Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) has once again committed its annual BlueAngel Community Health Grant program to addressing housing-related health inequities, awarding $648,000 in 2024 to initiatives led by 10 area non-profit social service organizations. This is the fifth consecutive year that the grants, established in 2002, have focused on supporting access to safe, stable, and affordable housing throughout Rhode Island.

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 successful initiatives.

The projects address a range of housing-related issues that are foundational to wellness, including housing and wraparound services for families with children, housing and outreach to individuals who are experiencing homelessness, and housing support and advocacy for individuals with substance use disorder.

“Too many Rhode Islanders face significant health-related needs and housing continues to be one of the most challenging areas,” said BCBSRI President & CEO 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.”

BCBSRI’s philanthropy is guided, in part, by the annual RI Life Index, 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 across the state. In 2023, a year after the affordable housing Index score plummeted from 40 to 33 on a scale of 100, the results were essentially unchanged at 32. High interest rates, steep home prices, low vacancy rates and increasing rents continued to prevent Rhode Island families from affording housing.

BCBSRI Managing Director of Corporate Social Responsibility Carolyn Belisle said, “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 in our state and led us to begin directing our health grants toward housing-related programs. 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.”

The 2024 awards bring the five-year total investment in affordable housing to nearly $2.7 million. Since the grant program began in 2002, BCBSRI has donated more than $6.9 million to local organizations, funding critical work that has impacted the lives of more than 336,000 Rhode Islanders.

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

•    Foster Forward – Utilizing a Housing First approach to house youth/young adults ages 18 to 24 who are experiencing 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 CDC – 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.

A year after being awarded a BlueAngel Community Health Grant, recipients are eligible for, and encouraged to apply for, transitional funding to build upon programs that have demonstrated success. Transitional funding totaling $335,000 is being provided this year to the following: Adoption Rhode Island, Habitat for Humanity of South County, Jonnycake Center for Hope, West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation, and Westbay Community Action, Inc. 

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.

Visit here for more information about the BlueAngel grant program.

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