HealthFinders Collaborative strongly believes that health and wellness begin in the community. Our community engagement team is in ongoing conversation with leaders and residents across the community about what makes them healthy. Frequently, the conversation turns to a variety of social determinants, or underlying factors, that impact community members’ ability to be healthy. These social determinants include education, employment, childcare, housing and more, all factors beyond the clinic walls. With this approach, we have been able to elevate the concerns and issues affecting the health and well-being of our community.

Recent conversations have turned focus to housing in Faribault, specifically with the possible lack of adequate housing for some residents. A 2012 housing study conducted by the Rice County Housing and Redevelopment Authority highlighted the rising demand for rental housing and issues that could arise (e.g. poor living conditions and inadequate space).

Not long ago, one of our staff members recounted a not-uncommon story told to them by a community member, “Back in 2014, I was getting married and looking for a place to live. I looked online and saw an apartment building in Faribault had 2 bedrooms open and I called and made an appointment.” When they went to view the apartment and fill out application materials, the landlord refused to let them into the building. After that calls were not returned, and after some time they were finally offered a one-bedroom apartment even though they had been inquiring about a two-bedroom. The individual states, “I was deeply disturbed and declined the offer. For the first time in my life I felt I was experiencing racism. I felt sorry for all the people who probably get treated this way. I still can’t believe that happened.”

This account is one of many that have been told to HealthFinders’ staff members.  As a 2016 research conducted by The Root Cause Coalition (RCC) addresses, housing insecurity is much more than just homelessness. It includes a lack of stable living environment, paying more than is recommended based on household incomes, overcrowding, and even poor housing conditions. In addition, there is a link to health that many overlook. Frequent moves, eviction, or overcrowded housing can lead to elevated stress levels, depression, and even hopelessness (insert link or citation). This causes negative effects on health and deters preventive treatment. The RCC also noted the link between lowered levels of psychological wellbeing, particularly in men, and other instabilities such as excessive utility bills, home repairs, mortgage payments, etc.

As Joy Watson, Director of Housing in Rice County states, “It is against the law to discriminate in housing if people are members of a protected class.  Some examples of protected class are race, religion, gender, familial status (having children), and national origin.  Because language can be associated with national origin, it is illegal to discriminate against someone because of the language they speak.  Discrimination can take many forms; it is not only the blatant kinds of acts that most people would associate with discrimination.  For example, it is discrimination for an owner to put everyone with children in the same building or (on the same) floor.  Families are free to choose where they want to live without being steered.  It also discriminatory to tell someone that a unit is unavailable because they are a member of protected class.  It is illegal to tell someone a rental unit is unavailable because they are from another country or don’t speak English as their native language.  Remember that housing protection applies not only to rental housing, but also to home buying.”

Resources for Residents

The housing situation has prompted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to conduct an investigation into situations such as that of Alan Farah in Faribault. The ACLU aims to address civil rights and liberties. If you believe you have been a victim of housing discrimination or would like to speak to a representative at ACLU, please click here.

If you are interested in Section 8 housing eligibility or would like assistance in submitting a claims report, please contact Joy Watson at 507-333-3787.

HealthFinders strives to address social determinants that have an effect on health and accessibility. If you are interested in learning more about health-related issues, or would like HealthFinders to assist you with finding resources, please contact us at 507-323-8100.

Sources:

The Root Cause Coalition

http://www.rootcausecoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/White-Paper-Housing-and-Health.pdf:

Rice County Housing Study

http://www.co.rice.mn.us/DocumentCenter/Home/View/926