Family Advocacy: Connecting Families with Services They Need Most

Families are the heart of the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI). Our organization works collaboratively with families experiencing unhealthy housing conditions to ensure that they have the opportunity to thrive in a healthy and safe environment. Strategies to create a healthy and safe home include a combination of the following:

  • Lead hazard remediation within the current home
  • Relocation to lead-safe or lead-free housing
  • Asthma trigger reduction
  • Weatherization and energy efficiency upgrades
  • Repair safety hazards and structural defects
  • Health education and skill building
  • Case management including referrals and resources
  • Tenant’s rights assistance and legal services
  • Property owner assistance
  • Basic needs referrals
  • Energy assistance referrals

GHHI Baltimore's Family Advocacy Services (FAS) Department ensures that every family is directed to the most helpful information, education and services to address their needs through careful case management. Families come to GHHI through many avenues including referrals from clinical partners, community partners, outreach events, self-referrals, government partners and neighbors and friends. The client services coordinator leads each referred family through the intake process—a survey of questions about their family, home and health—to ensure that they receive the most appropriate services as quickly as possible.

Through FAS, we connect clients to programs and services that address their specific needs. Typically, families referred to GHHI have a child with an elevated blood lead level (EBLL) or asthma symptoms that are potentially linked to the home itself and/or behaviors exhibited in the home. FAS works closely with the family and landlord to ensure that the family’s current home becomes healthy or that the family is relocated to a healthy home. Lead poisoning still continues to be a serious health concern for children ages 0-6 and pregnant women. FAS case managers and family advocacy attorney explore all options to ensure that the home environment is safe and healthy.

We have had the privilege of helping a number of families with a child that has an EBLL. The services provided are based on then individual and unique needs of families. Last year we met an amazing mom who had just learned that her son had lead poisoning. Jessica was referred to GHHI Baltimore by Hopkins Children’s Harriet Lane Clinic because her three-and-a-half year old son Kamari had an EBLL of 13 µg/dL. Jessica was also seven months pregnant and essentially homeless—she constantly moved from home to home of friends and family, and all those homes contained lead paint hazards. She needed to secure a safe home for her son and her unborn child that was lead safe, yet she had little to no income since she was unable to work during the last months of her pregnancy.

GHHI Baltimore was able to provide the family with a referral for an Emergency Housing Choice Voucher through a collaboration with the Housing Authority of Baltimore City. We worked with her to secure a home and negotiate the lease and security deposit with her landlord. The home was certified lead-free and had a current lead certificate this ensured that her son and her new baby daughter were in a healthy and safe home. FAS staff also provided her with education on nutrition and cleaning techniques to help lower her son’s existing lead level. After three months of teamwork she is in a safe and healthy environment and Kamari’s lead level has dropped to 8 µg/dL. GHHI Baltimore will continue to provide her with support and case management as she adjusts life as a tenant including budgeting and bill paying skills, cleaning and nutrition, job training and job searches and applying for social services as appropriate.

Jessica also participates in the GHHI Baltimore’s First Book program in which Kamari received his first home library (eight books). We explained the importance of reading to and with Kamari on a regular basis. Lead poisoning has a number of adverse effects including developmental delays and learning disabilities as well as other physical and behavioral symptoms. Strategies such as reading with your child can begin to reverse these devastating effects and start the healing process. According to Jessica, Kamari “is progressing a lot,” is now more interested in reading and is starting to point out the pictures and name the items in the books.

GHHI Baltimore provides comprehensive services to families in need of healthy housing. For more information about our services please call 410-534-6447 or email at marylandprograms@ghhi.org. If you are a community or clinical referral partner please call or email to receive information on our online referral page and password. 

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