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Housing is a Health Issue in Allen County Says Recent Community Survey

Substandard housing and lack of transportation are health issues in the communities we serve. Poor housing conditions are associated with many health problems, including asthma, lead poisoning, and injury, while reduced access to public transportation affects people’s qualities of life, including the ability to access jobs, education, and medical care.

“We know that there’s not enough affordable rental housing to meet the needs of Ohioans, especially in our rural areas,” says LAWO Senior Attorney Kara Ford. “That lack of supply forces people to make tough trade-offs.  Many of our clients will simply deal with poor housing conditions like mold, pests, lead paint chipping, etc., because they would rather be housed than be in a shelter, sleeping in their cars, couch surfing, or otherwise unhoused.”

According to Ford, these poor conditions can have a ripple effect. A home with mold, for example, can lead to tenants getting multiple respiratory infections and having to miss school or work. If that tenant doesn’t have paid sick leave, they may not be able to afford rent and end up facing eviction, or they may be let go from their job for repeated absences. Their kids may fall behind in school due to being absent for illness. “Affordable, healthy housing is necessary, not only for the family to thrive, but also for the entire community to improve its health, educational, and economic outcomes,” Ford says.

A recent community health survey says that rates of chronic disease in Allen County were largely unchanged amid the pandemic, but families and individuals living in poverty face a significantly higher risk of developing chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, arthritis, and mental health issues. Only 27% of low-income households surveyed reported their health as excellent or very good, compared to 61% of those whose household earnings exceed $25,000.

Partners focusing on the 2020-2023 Allen County Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) will take feedback from the survey to continue to address four priority health areas for the community:

  • Substance use and mental health
  • Chronic disease prevention
  • Maternal and infant health
  • Housing and public transportation

“Our involvement with the West Ohio Community Action Partnership allows us to support the CHIP’s housing goals by reaching residents in Allen County who may qualify for free legal assistance,” Ford explains. “Our attorneys may assist with eviction defense, eviction record sealing, housing vouchers, and property conditions that could be contributing to negative health outcomes.”

Read the most current updates and outcomes of the 2020-2023 Allen County Community Health Improvement Plan here.

About the author

Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc.

Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc.

Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc. (LAWO) is a non-profit regional law firm that provide high quality legal assistance in civil matters to help eligible low-income individuals and groups in western Ohio achieve self reliance, and equal justice and economic opportunity.