DESCRIPTION OF THE STRATEGY
Community organizations can document deteriorated paint, lead dust, and other health hazards in homes using low-tech tools such as those developed by the Community Environmental Health Resource Center (CEHRC) and use the aggregate hazard data to press landlords and government agencies to address hazards in specific properties and to advocate for community-wide solutions.
Using the hazard investigation data, community-based organizations (CBOs) and others can work to win additional resources for hazard remediation, medical attention, and education targeted to communities proven to be at high risk for health hazards in housing. Also, housing not normally tested for hazards under current systems is referred to lead hazard control programs and code agencies responsible for ensuring good housing maintenance and repair.
Residents are encouraged by CBOs and volunteers to have their children tested for lead and are introduced to community resources such as medical clinics, home-buying assistance, and educational opportunities through work with CBOs and other residents. A community-wide picture of lead hazards in housing will help health departments and others to target attention and resources. Media coverage resulting from the release of the data highlights dangers to a wider audience, increasing attention to housing-related health hazards and issues concerning communities at risk in general.
Community leadership and capacity are built from a greater sense of community among affected residents as they become organized to demand action to address housing-based health hazards as well as other community-wide ills such as ambient pollution and public safety.
Scope of Potential Impact
Regional (e.g. multi-county)
City - or - County - Wide
Code or Building Inspection Agency
A minimum of 1 FTE capable of managing follow-up with residents whose homes have been found to have hazards (to determine corrective action taken and provide general support to the families) and coordinate and implement an advocacy campaign using data. CBO staff should be able to analyze local policy elements and advocate for new policies or enforcement of existing policies to improve hazard prevention and control at the community-level and beyond. The training of local leaders living in dangerous housing is also a very important staffing element, as these affected local leaders will be the most effective spokespeople on the issue. The initial environmental sampling/data collection phase requires a different staffing pattern, including a cadre of stipendiary community-based volunteers or interns, for example, high school students or VISTA volunteers. These individuals are trained in all of the aspects of environmental sampling and in inviting families to have their homes checked for hazards through door-knocking and making presentations at churches, local health fairs, and block parties.
Other resource requirements:
Technical assistance from public agencies; non-profit intermediaries (like the Alliance for Healthy Homes); access to Legal Aid and mapping/GIS technology and skills; media advocacy knowledge/experience; advocacy experience.
Ability to manage a complex program with strict documentation requirements, quality assurance/quality control needs, policy advocacy elements.
Lead hazard testing lab and material costs are in the range of $60/unit. A meaningful project, covering stipends for hazard investigators and salary for project manager, costs at least $75,000 annually.
High. This strategy is feasible for community-based organizations with strong ties to at-risk communities and staff with skills to manage a multifaceted project. Reaching advocacy goals can take many months.
Actual and perceived state restrictions on who may take lead hazard samples can delay start-up and harm project credibility. Socio-economic factors inherent to the community, including working with potentially vulnerable residents like undocumented immigrants, many of whom are likely to be living in substandard housing. Lack of political will may impede progress on advocacy goals.