LIMA — Lima needs solutions to its housing problems? Lima’s Habitat for Humanity may have some ideas.
The international nonprofit housing organization has been at the forefront of building quality homes at low costs for decades since it started its work in 1976. Today, the local chapter is exploring how it can better harness that expertise for Lima.
Richard Maye, president of Strategic Integration Solutions, has been at the forefront of that effort since he began volunteering with Habitat for Humanity’s local affiliate in 2020. He’s been trying to raise the local group’s profile in the community this past year, but he’s also been trying to get people to think about the housing solutions that Habitat can provide to the larger community.
After examining the issue, he’s been focusing on health. Basically, since a person’s health outcome is largely influenced by his or her environment, then the process of providing better quality homes cheaply and effectively should be funded by those worried about public health.
Consequently, health providers could benefit from partnering with Habitat, Maye said.
“(Habitat) builds these two- to three-bedroom houses at about half the costs of what it takes on an open market,” Maye said. “An urgent housing need has existed for decades, and all we’ve been doing is nibbling around the edges. Let’s stop nibbling and get healthcare providers to do something about the total cost of care and improving public health.”
Maye estimates it would take roughly $2 million to build 20 homes and rehabilitate another 75 using Habitat’s methods. To kick the program off the ground with the first round of eight houses, $290,000 would be necessary.
An expansion of the program could help identify families that have the largest health and housing needs by taking a look at each hospital’s high-risk and high-cost patients, Maye suggested. Essentially, an eligibility list would be created to funnel potential families to Habitat, and then they’d be trained as homeowners. The final steps would be Habitat’s normal process of having the family provide the necessary sweat-equity hours and then payment for the homes once completed.
“Generally, there’s a misunderstanding that Habitat builds houses for families and gives the house away. That’s not correct,” Maye said.
As for local hospitals, they’ve shown some interest in addressing housing issues. For example, Mercy Health-St Rita’s Medical Center’s director of government and community affairs has a spot on the Lima Housing Task Force and has expressed an interest in tackling neighborhoods.
“We know that quality of housing is a critically important social determinant of health, and as such, Mercy Health is excited to be participating in the Lima Housing Task Force. And while we recognize that this is a broad and challenging topic, we are exploring various ways that St. Rita’s could be a catalyst for improvement,” Keehn said in a statement.
When asked about the hospital’s role in housing and social determinants of health, Lima Memorial Health System President and CEO Mike Swick provided a similar answer.
“Our mission to improve the quality of life in our communities extends beyond the great care we provide at our facilities. We remain committed to collaborating with local organizations and agencies to address the social determinants of health impacting our community, including housing,” he said in a statement.
Maye said he’s also looking to talk to insurance providers about potential funding.
“It seems like we’re strung out doing this and doing that around Lima and Allen County, but we’re siloed. Everyone is doing different things to help the community, but we lost our focus on how to solve the existing problem that defines the community. And that’s the prevalence of substandard housing,” Maye said.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.