Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island caps 20 years of community grants with $740,000 for organizations addressing health inequities tied to housing

 Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island caps 20 years of community grants with $740,000 for organizations addressing health inequities tied to housing
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2023 BlueAngel Community Health Grant program provides $335,000 to organizations launching programs at the intersection of housing and health and an additional $405,000 for 2022 grantees to continue successful initiatives begun last year

PROVIDENCE, RI (January 17, 2023) — Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) continues to address housing-related health inequities by awarding $740,000 in 2023 — $335,000 in grants to five organizations that improve access to safe, stable, and affordable housing throughout Rhode Island and $405,000 for successful 2022 grantees. Funding for these organizations comes from BCBSRI’s cornerstone grant program, BlueAngel Community Health Grants (BACHG), which celebrated its 20th year in 2022.

“We’re thrilled to be celebrating 20 years of BlueAngel Community Health Grants and over $6 million invested across our state,” said BCBSRI President & CEO Martha Wofford. “Our community faces significant health-related needs and we’re proud to work with dedicated community partners who share our unwavering commitment to a healthier and more equitable Rhode Island.”

BCBSRI’s philanthropic focus on housing is guided by responses to the annual RI Life Index, a statewide survey of Rhode Islanders administered by the Brown University School of Public Health in partnership with BCBSRI. The RI Life Index has consistently shown that access to safe, stable affordable housing is a top concern for Rhode Islanders in nearly every community. In fact, the 2022 score for affordable housing worsened – dropping from 40 to 33 on a scale of 100 – amid high inflation, high interest rates, and high prices and rents.

BCBSRI Managing Director of Corporate Social Responsibility Carolyn Belisle noted, “While the housing scores from the 2022 RI Life Index were discouraging, they highlight the urgency of supporting organizations that are working proactively and effectively to develop housing solutions for Rhode Islanders. This year’s grantees shine a light on the needs of children and families to access safe and affordable housing. For Rhode Islanders in every community and every zip code, lack of access to affordable housing continues to be one of the most significant barriers to health and well-being.”

The 2023 awards extend BACHG investments in affordable housing to a fourth year, totaling $2.1 million since establishing housing as the sole funding focus in 2019. In total, since the BACHG program’s inception in 2002, BCBSRI has donated more than $6 million to local organizations, funding critical work that has impacted the lives of more than 333,000 Rhode Islanders. 

The following organizations and projects have been chosen for BACHG funding in 2023:

  • Adoption Rhode Island (Providence) – A youth development specialist from Adoption Rhode Island will be located at Copley Chambers, an affordable housing project of 26 newly developed units for youth and young adults with past foster care experience who are facing homelessness or housing insecurity. The specialist will be part of an integrated approach to supportive service delivery for residents in collaboration with other co-located partners.
  • South County Habitat for Humanity (Charlestown) – Funding will pay for materials for a project to build a neighborhood of seven single-family Habitat homes in Hopkinton. CharihoTech students will take part in construction for an experiential education opportunity outside of the classroom.
  • Jonnycake Center for Hope (South Kingstown) – The center will renovate three of the 15 to 19 units of service-enriched housing it plans to offer to local, low-income families experiencing unstable and/or unaffordable housing. [The Center acquired five multi-unit buildings from two other nonprofits in the area in 2021].
  • West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation (Providence) – Funding will be used to increase the agency’s capacity to offer homebuyer education and foreclosure prevention services in Providence to monolingual Spanish speaking first-time homebuyers and homeowners at risk of foreclosure. The curriculum being used to facilitate the course was developed by the Housing Network of Rhode Island and approved by HUD.
  • Westbay Community Action, Inc. (Warwick) – Westbay will expand upon its Hoarding Intervention Response and Evaluation (HIRE) program, which provides services to Kent County residents who are at-risk for engaging in hoarding behavior or who are already engaging in hoarding behavior. The goal is to prevent long term health and safety hazards and evictions.

Another $405,000 in BACHG funds was awarded to 2022 grant recipients who applied for an additional year of funding. Recipients included DARE (Direct Action for Rights and Equality), Housing Network of Rhode Island, NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, ONE Neighborhood Builders, Pawtucket Central Falls Development, and Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness. Grant recipients can apply for transitional funding when successful performance outcomes have been achieved in the first year.

BACHG funding is made available through the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island Community Health Fund maintained at the Rhode Island Foundation. The grant selection process began in July with a call for letters of intent. More than 30 organizations responded. Finalists were asked to submit a full proposal and the application review included site visits.

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