In December of 2020, Mercy Health launched a 21-month eviction and foreclosure prevention program in the Bond Hill and Roselawn neighborhoods near its Bond Hill hub location. Recognizing that health and stable housing are linked, the initiative was intended to reduce the economic impacts of COVID-19 on people struggling to make ends meet who may have to decide between rent/mortgage payments, food, medical care and other essentials.
Built into the program was a promise to evaluate its effectiveness to inform future funding and policy efforts aimed at addressing health and its links to eviction and foreclosure crises more broadly.
“Mercy Health worked with the Reinvestment Fund and Greater Ohio Policy Center to determine how these prevention strategies impacted the health of residents and their neighborhoods,” said Gina Hemenway, executive director of community health, Mercy Health – Cincinnati. “We are heartened that the analysis showed that our program succeeded in its aims on a number of levels. This gives us a blueprint for expanding and/or replicating our efforts in other areas where Mercy Health operates.”
The report notes successes in the following areas:
- Ninety percent of renters and all homeowners reached as part of the program evaluation remained in the same housing unit up to seven months after receiving assistance, an indication of stability.
- Two-thirds (67 percent) of assistance recipients said that someone in their household had a chronic disease and/or ongoing mental health challenges and the assistance may have prevented these people from experiencing negative health outcomes.
- Half of the program participants said the assistance enabled them to quarantine during the pandemic, and half said it enabled them to avoid overcrowded living conditions or doubling up.
- This program may have played an important part in stabilizing households in Bond Hill and Roselawn. While neighborhood level impacts were difficult to isolate due to simultaneous availability of multiple pandemic-response programs across the city, the evaluation team found that without the assistance, foreclosure filings could have doubled and evictions may have been as much as 40 percent higher.
- Program recipients valued that the program was easy to navigate and that funds were received rapidly.
- Mercy Health enlisted a team of engaged, high-capacity partners who were well-equipped to deploy the funds.
- All partners reported a positive experience working with Mercy Health and appreciated the streamlined, user-friendly program design, particularly the flexibility compared to other funding sources (e.g., the ability to direct funds to utilities and tax delinquencies, not just rent and mortgages) and lack of stringent eligibility or documentation requirements (no income caps).
- Project partners were proactive and strategic about making course corrections and adjustments to the original project description, which was another key to the program’s success.
- The project design was responsive to the community priorities of helping current homeowners and renters in the target neighborhoods stay in their homes.
The evaluation team also developed several recommendations for future versions of the program, including general considerations for program operations and more specific suggestions for health systems. These include:
- Replicating careful and genuine outreach efforts to expand or introduce similar programming elsewhere to ensure designs are community-driven.
- Clearly identifying the goal of the effort and tailoring implementation of the program around that goal.
- Pinpointing specific data sources needed to track those goals.
- Embrace program designs with minimal eligibility requirements.
- Creating and monitoring multi-dimensional neighborhood-level indicators to inform program design, identify locations for targeted interventions and measure outcomes.
- Taking deliberate steps to track health outcomes via intake forms or ongoing follow-up conversations and targeting those people with, or caring for, a family member with a chronic disease.
- Engaging with high-capacity partners, especially when expanding a program to a new area.
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