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Health, Housing, Winter, and COVID-19

Photograph by Dylan Brown, 2019

As the months go by and winter sets in along with a new wave of guidelines and restrictions being put into place as COVID-19 cases rise across the country, people are going to be spending more and more time inside their homes. On Friday November 20th, a new set of “Safer at Home” restrictions are going to be put into action in Philadelphia. The Safer at Home restrictions and guidelines are intended to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the health and lives of Philadelphians. Some of the restrictions include necessitating all high schools and colleges to move to online instruction only, the closing of libraries and many other businesses, and the halting of recreational activities and sports for youth, community groups, and schools. While these restrictions are necessary and potentially lifesaving, they will limit access to important resources that people rely on. As more and more people return to their homes for work and school, access to things such as food, the internet, and suitable living and working environments will become even more important.

Studies show that poor housing quality can directly relate to school performance and can lead to other health issues caused by things like mildew, mold, and lead paint. The Healthy Rowhouse Project found that more than a quarter of Philadelphia seniors live in a home with damage to the roof, the plumbing system, or the heating system. Seniors in homes with health-related repair needs are far more likely than others to have chronic conditions, visit the emergency room, or experience falls. Moreover, some 39 percent of asthma diagnoses in children can be attributed to risk factors in the home. According to the American Housing Survey, more than 235,000 homes in Philadelphia have leaks, with the most common leaks coming from the roof. Meanwhile, 90,000 homes have cracks in the floors or walls, 77,000 have inadequate heating, and 45,000 have broken windows. As it gets colder this winter, issues with heating systems within the home will become even more problematic and apparent as more time is spent inside.

Here at the Healthy Rowhouse Project we understand that there is a strong connection between health and housing, something that has only become more relevant in the midst of a pandemic that has required people to stay home. Because of this, we have worked with Clarifi and the City of Philadelphia to create the Restore, Repair, Renew program, which was recently featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer, in order to provide Philadelphians access to affordable home repair loans. These accessible loans can be used to fund a range of home repairs that focus on health, safety, weatherization, accessibility, and more, and provide low-to-moderate income Philadelphians the opportunity to protect their most important assets.

Voting in The 2020 Presidential Election

Ballots Have Been Mailed - El Paso County Colorado

As we approach the 2020 presidential election, it is important for you to make sure you know how, when, and where to vote. Your vote, and your voice, matter. Make sure that you are heard, not voting is essentially voting for the candidate or candidates who do not represent your voice. According to Pew Research Center, in 2016, four-in-ten Americans who were eligible did not vote. So, those who won their political office did so with only 60% of eligible voters casting their vote. 40% of eligible voters were silent. 40% did not have their voices represented at the polls. How would you feel if you invited 50 people to celebrate a special occasion, and 40% of those who said yes, did not show? In 2016, the number of eligible voters that “Did not vote” beat the number of those who did vote for either Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump by almost 30 million. Over 94 million eligible voters chose not to vote in 2016. That means 40 percent of Americans who were eligible to vote had no voice in their communities or their country. Due to the covid-19 pandemic, there are a variety of options that voters can use to cast their ballot, such as mail in ballots or in person voting. Election day is Tuesday, November 3rd, which is less than one month away.

It is easier than ever to vote this year. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware all have a way to mail in your vote and in some cases vote early to avoid the lines on Election Day. Make sure you plan your vote. State-specific resources are below. If you don’t live in PA, NJ, or DE go to Vote.org to find the requirements and deadlines for your state. In order to vote, it is necessary for you to be registered within your state!

  • In Pennsylvania, residents must register by October 19, 2020 in order to vote in the 2020 election. You can register to vote in PA online here.
  • New Jersey residents much register by October 12, 2020, New Jersey residents can register online here
  • Delaware residents must register by October 10, 2020 in order to vote, and Delaware residents can register here.

To apply for a mail-in ballot in PA, follow this link, as well as these links for NJ and DE. In PA, mail-in ballot registration is due by October 27, 2020, in NJ, all registered voters will automatically get a mail in ballot, and in DE, mail-in registration is due by October 30, 2020.

  • In PA, Mailed Ballots must be postmarked on or before November 3 and received by your county’s Board of Elections by November 6. You can drop it off at your county’s election office by November 3 (check hours before you go).
  • In NJ, If you mail it – Mailed Ballots must be postmarked on or before November 3 and received by your county’s Board of Elections by November 10. Or you can place your ballot in a secure drop box by 8:00 PM on November 3.
  • In DE, Mailed Ballots must be received no later than 8:00 PM on Election Day. Postmarks are not enough! You can drop it off to the county elections office that issued the ballot or mail it.

To vote in person, prior to election day, confirm that you are registered, your polling location (which can be found online, your location may have changed from the last election!), and if there are any ID requirements. On election day, if you are in line, stay in line. If you plan to vote in person, put your state’s election complaint number in your phone!

To vote by mail, make sure that you carefully follow all instructions, sign things where needed, and double check your envelope before sending it or dropping it off. Send in your ballot early if possible, different states have different rules regarding the deadline to receive the mail-in ballot. When possible, use drop-off locations for your ballot.

If you received a mail in ballot but have decided to vote in person, check your state’s voting information to determine what you should do with your mail in ballot. DO NOT throw it away, states have rules about how to “cancel” a mail in ballot if you decide to show up in person to vote.

This year, your voice matters more than ever. For more info, go to vote.org.

Participate in The 2020 Census

Participation in the 2020 United States Census is absolutely crucial. The Census is a decennial (meaning it happens every ten years) survey used by the US government and a wide variety of organizations, such as Clarifi and the Healthy Rowhouse Project. The goal of the census is to gather information on the population within the United States and to count all people – both citizens and noncitizens – who are living here. The Census effects everything from the number of seats your state has in the House of Representatives, to the amount of funding that your state and local communities will receive from the federal government for the next ten years! It is absolutely critical that you are counted within the census, you wouldn’t want to be counted out! Due to COVID-19, the U.S. Census Bureau has had to make some adjustments to the 2020 Census, and the due date to complete your survey response is now September 30, 2020 (9/30/2020). When you fill out the survey, only one person should respond per household. That person must be at least 15 years old. They should live in the home or place of residence that they are responding for, and they should know general information about each person living there. When you answer the survey, you should keep in mind that the answers you give should be based on how and where you and other members of your household were living as of April 1st, 2020. Don’t forget to count yourself in by September 30th!

The Remarkable Relation Between Your Health and Your Zip Code

Red gradients indicate shorter life spans within census tracts while blue gradients indicate longer life spans. (Dark red = shortest / Dark blue = longest)

Your zip code has a greater effect on your health and life expectancy than you may have expected, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from the National Center for Health Statistics. “A distance of only a few miles can produce profound differences in how long you are likely to live.” For example, in Birmingham, Chester County, PA the median income is over $166,000 and the average life expectancy is an outstanding 89 years old. In Delaware County’s Chester Township, where the average median income is about $40,000, life expectancy drops to 67 years old.

This trend is true across Philadelphia neighborhoods as well. According to a 2018 article from the Philly Inquirer “in Philadelphia’s Spring Garden section, where 97 percent of adults completed high school, you’ll probably live to be 87 years old or more. But in West Philadelphia’s Mantua, where one-third of the population didn’t graduate from secondary school, your life expectancy is just 66 years.” In Strawberry Mansion’s census tract, the average life expectancy is 64 years old, 17 minutes away in Lower Merion, the average life expectancy climbs to 92 years of age.  James Ziliak, the director of the Center for Poverty Research at the University of Kentucky said, “Presenting data like this is very informative because it presents in a very stark way how economic inequality and inequality of opportunity can manifest itself in huge differences in life expectancy.” Lower-income Philadelphians often live in substandard housing conditions and attend failing schools in disinvested communities. These factors all play a huge role in the health and life expectancies of Philadelphians.

The Healthy Rowhouse Project recognizes this problem and understands that housing is social determinant of health. Through programs such as the City of Philadelphia sponsored Restore, Repair, Renew home repair loan program, Clarifi, a program manager, is working to combat these problems. The Restore, Repair, Renew program allows Philadelphians with incomes below 120% of area median income to make health-based repairs and renovations to their homes. By making these repairs, with a low interest fixed rate loan. By making these repairs affordable and accessible safe housing will be preserved in Philadelphia, giving low-and moderate-income Philadelphians the opportunity to improve the health and safety of their homes.