News

New Housing Resource Center in Brattleboro

SEVCA’s new Housing Resource Center (HRC) in Brattleboro opened in June in an adjoining space to SEVCA’s Family Services office at 15 Grove Street. Equipped with computers, copier, and furniture (in large part due to local donations), the HRC now opens its doors during selected hours weekly to all Brattleboro-area households searching for housing, particularly low-cost or subsidized housing. We expect it will be used extensively by SEVCA’s clients as well as those working with other agencies serving low-income clients.

Activities at the HRC will educate and empower clients with a holistic knowledge of local and state housing resources. Visitors can use the computers, browse housing listings, receive help to fill out applications for housing, and access other materials about community resources and public benefits programs for which they may be eligible.

The space will also periodically host the 4-session “How To Be A Successful Renter” tenant education program. SEVCA has strong relationships with area landlords, who have shown that they are much more willing to rent to a tenant with a poor rental history when they are able to show they’ve completed a tenant education program and achieved a certificate. We also expect to provide SEVCA’s 7-session Financial Fitness course at this location periodically throughout the year.

We envisage the HRC to be a critical component of the effort by the Brattleboro-area Continuum of Care to reduce homelessness. SEVCA will recruit and train volunteers to help run the center; we plan to offer volunteer opportunities to homeless and formerly-homeless individuals, among others. For more information, or to volunteer at the Housing Resource Center, please call 579-1314 x102.

 

New Grant for Healthy Homes Initiative

The Fanny Holt Ames and Edna Louise Holt Fund just awarded a 3-year grant for $270,000 to SEVCA for a new Healthy Homes Initiative. The program will serve vulnerable, low-income residents of Windham and Windsor Counties whose inadequate housing conditions exacerbate existing health conditions and/or represent serious health or safety risks. This includes elderly and/or disabled residents who require home repairs or modifications to prevent falls and enable them to age in place; residents suffering from asthma, COPD, or other respiratory illnesses worsened by poor indoor air quality; and other low-income households that cannot afford the repairs needed to ensure a safe, healthy home.

The Healthy Homes Initiative represents an evolution of SEVCA’s Emergency Home Repair Program (EHRP), which has been in operation for the past 10 years. Introducing the Healthy Homes Initiative creates a tighter link between improvements to the home environment and their effect on the health conditions of vulnerable residents in our service area, thus ensuring effective targeting of resources and demonstrably greater positive health outcomes. It also allows for a more comprehensive intervention to address multiple needs for repairs and improvements affecting the health of residents within the home, extending beyond the limited scope of our existing funding sources.

Eligible home repairs and improvements for the program will include (but not be limited to): pest control, mold remediation, Vermiculite removal, vents, air filters, carpet removal, debris removal, lead abatement, floor and stair repairs/replacements, addition of ramps and handrails, emergency plumbing repairs (e.g. frozen/burst pipes), water quality interventions (wells, failed water and/or septic systems), correcting code violations, roof repair, and other repairs necessary to maintain integrity of the building envelope.

Repairs/improvements are expected to average $2,000 - $2,500, but the cost for each home will vary due to the extent of the need. Approximately 65 households per year will be served, and both homeowners and renters may be eligible, including mobile home owners. For more information about the Healthy Homes Initiative, please contact Ed Hogan, EHRP Coordinator, at (800) 464-9951.

WHY ARE HEALTHY HOMES IMPORTANT?

While most U.S. health care expenditures have emphasized access to clinical health care and treatment, growing evidence argues for a greater focus on the social determinants of health; i.e., the social and environmental factors that influence individuals’ health status, the efficacy of treatment plans, and health care costs. Social determinants of health include whether individuals have access to basic needs such as safe and adequate housing, nutritious food, livable income, good education, etc. An estimated 70% of an individual’s health status is linked to environmental and behavioral factors like these, according to the New England Healthcare Institute (https://www.nehi.net/publications/32-the-boston-paradox-lots-of-health-care-not-enough-health/view). Meanwhile, increases in chronic conditions that should be easily treated, such as asthma, and preventable accidents such as falls, are major factors in increasing healthcare costs. A variety of interventions have been developed to address different facets of this problem, among them Healthy Homes initiatives. These have typically focused on relatively low-cost interventions for individuals suffering from chronic conditions caused or exacerbated by poor-quality indoor environments or individuals at risk of preventable injuries or other avoidable negative health outcomes.

In 2009, the National Center for Healthy Housing and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed the evidence and assessed which interventions could be considered evidence-based, versus those that needed more field evaluation or formative research, or those that were ineffective (https://nchh.org/resource-library/report_housing-interventions-and-health_a-review-of-the-evidence.pdf). Many of the interventions identified were featured in various Healthy Homes initiatives that began to be implemented around the country.

Our program, focusing on improving the quality of living environments for low-income, vulnerable individuals, is expected to have a lasting effect on improved health outcomes for people who lack the resources to address the issues that have a negative impact on their health or increase their health risks.

Help with Health Coverage

Navigating public health systems doesn't have to be painful

Need help to get Medicaid or health insurance on the public exchange? Having difficulty with the process of renewing your benefits or adjusting your coverage? SEVCA’s Health Navigator is available to help families and individuals in Windham or Windsor Counties get or keep the coverage they need to stay healthy and/or obtain treatment.

Since the introduction of the Affordable Care Act in Vermont, Health Navigators have made an important contribution to expanding health insurance coverage for many formerly uninsured individuals and families. Navigators were accessible in a number of locations throughout the state, and helped people to enroll in appropriate VT Health Connect programs as well as Medicaid, and to assist with renewals or changes in circumstances. In the current policy environment, in which the Affordable Care Act has been under attack, there has been very little funding to provide outreach and assistance to the many people who continue to need advice about their health care coverage.

Thanks to a grant from the Fanny Holt Ames and Edna Louise Holt Fund, SEVCA has been able to continue our Health Navigation program, helping hundreds of people access or maintain their coverage. Our Health Navigator, Alicia Moyer, is available to help the many people who become eligible for a Health Connect plan or Medicaid, lose eligibility and need an advocate, or who must transition to a different health coverage option based on changes in circumstances. The following quotes from people we’ve assisted show how much SEVCA’s clients value this service:

  • “Alicia was really helpful. I am SO grateful….I felt immediately at ease and comfortable. Please know how incredibly valuable this program is for helping us navigate the complex health care system.”
  • “I recently lost my job and health insurance—then I saw an article in the newspaper about SEVCA’s new Health Navigator. I was able to reach her easily by phone and we made an appointment to meet in Brattleboro. Alicia was friendly and so helpful and patient. She was able to help my husband and me set up health insurance right there during that meeting. It was great…thank you!”
  • “Alicia truly went above and beyond trying to help me qualify for the best health insurance possible and then helped me sift through the details of each plan to ensure I would receive the best fit for my needs. She spent a lot of time making sure I could access health care without delay and I could not have had a better experience!”
  • “We could not have done this on our own. The help we got not only made the process of selecting an insurance plan almost easy, but also saved us a lot of money.”
  • “I felt like I was between a rock and a hard place until I had the opportunity to speak with Alicia Moyer. Not only did she display a large amount of compassion towards my situation, but she took immediate action to set me in the right direction and (show me) how to utilize the proper resources. I learned that I was eligible to receive a 50% discount for something very important that I need to undergo medically. I am extremely grateful for Alicia’s assistance.”

Those in need of help with accessing health coverage through Medicaid or Health Connect can make an appointment with Alicia at locations in Westminster, Brattleboro, and White River Junction—call us at (800) 464-9951. She is also available for phone consultations.

Free Solar Energy Assistance Now Available from SEVCA’s Community Solar for Community Action project

SEVCA CS4CA flyer print

Southeastern Vermont Community Action’s (SEVCA’s) new 110 kW solar array, located at its Westminster office, is now complete, and the organization will soon be selecting approximately 50 households with low incomes and high energy burdens to receive free credits from the power produced by the array. Households in Windham and Windsor Counties that have a Green Mountain Power account are invited to apply during an open application period up until July 15. SEVCA will then select program participants according to criteria that include household income, energy burden, and housing cost burden. The households selected will receive credits on their GMP electric bill based on the power produced by the solar array, which will reduce their electricity costs. Benefits are expected to amount to approximately $400/year per household.

SEVCA has worked in partnership for over a year with the Minnesota-based Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) to develop this Community Solar for Community Action (CS4CA) project, as part of the national Solar in Your Community Challenge, a competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). SEVCA’s is one of several community solar projects RREAL developed during the competition period, and RREAL was awarded the runner-up prize in the competition. Catamount Solar, a Vermont-based, employee-owned solar contractor, was selected to install the array.

SEVCA’s project is expected to produce an estimated 119,500 kWh of electricity annually, and will help address the excessive energy burdens that households with low incomes face each year. Complementing its home weatherization and crisis fuel programs, CS4CA will be an important new tool in SEVCA’s efforts to ensure that all vulnerable households can meet their energy needs now and in the future.

To find out more, contact Daniel Quipp at 802 254 2795, ext. 103, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (800) 464-9951 and speak to the receptionist. 

SEVCA would like to thank all of its project supporters, including the U.S. Department of Energy, the Windham Regional Commission, the Thompson Trust, VLITE, the Vermont Community Foundation, and the dozens of other contributors who made this project possible.

August, 2019 Update: Please note that the application process has concluded and our subscribers have been selected. Thanks to everyone who showed an interest in the project! We will occasionally open up our waitlist, and will publicize this opportunity when it is available.

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1937