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When Pearl Baldwin purchased her home in Syracuse, she looked forward to a safe, comfortable place for her and her grandson. She never imagined that her new home could pose a risk to their lives.

“Everything looked normal from the outside at first, but over time I began to see the house had many dangerous aspects,” said Baldwin. “It was frightening and made me feel insecure.”

During the cold months, Pearl noticed the roof was leaking onto the sidewalk when it rained or snowed, causing a slippery walkway. The foundation began to deteriorate, allowing rodents to come in and out of her home. Pearl tried her best to keep everything protected and clean for the safety of her 13-year-old grandson, but realized she was spending a lot of time, money and energy trying to patch things up by herself.

Pearl soon learned about the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative Greater Syracuse (GHHIGS), an effort that helps to improve the health, safety and energy efficiency of low- and moderate-income homes in the City of Syracuse. The hazardous condition of Pearl’s home made her a suitable candidate for the program to step in and help.

GHHIGS community partners worked to completely replace and properly seal the foundation and siding on the house, ensuring no unwanted animals could enter. Workers also installed a new roof and protected power lines to eliminate any faulty or dangerous wires. Pearl’s home will also be getting new storm doors.

“All the long hours I worked trying to fix up my home and make ends meet was taking away from the time I had to spend with my grandson,” said Pearl. “I felt like my prayers were answered when I found out about Green & Healthy Homes because now I can spend more time at home with my family, and feel safe doing so.”

According to National GHHI, nearly six million households live with moderate to severe home health and safety hazards, which place them at risk for illnesses and injuries including asthma, lead poisoning, slips and falls, and respiratory illnesses. An unhealthy home can change how somebody lives their life including absentee work days, less time with family or children missing school. Like Pearl, Syracuse residents will soon face fewer of these challenges with the help of GHHIGS’s work.

“One of our ultimate goals is to improve the safety of all people’s homes and their overall health so they can have a productive life,” said Katie Bronson, outcome broker for GHHIGS. “All of the updates to Pearl’s house complemented each other to create a holistic home and improve the health and safety of both her and her grandson.”

Residents of the City of Syracuse will now be able to breathe easier knowing that their homes are free of unhealthy hazards and that they will save on energy costs. Together with Home HeadQuarters,  the Health Foundation of Western and Central New York, the City of Syracuse, Onondaga County and other community partners, the Community Foundation engaged in a multi-year effort to launch Green & Healthy Homes Initiative Greater Syracuse to correct home health, safety and efficiency issues faced by low- to moderate-income homeowners.

In collaboration with the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, a national nonprofit dedicated to breaking the link between unhealthy housing and unhealthy residents, this local partnership is working to replace stand-alone housing intervention programs with anintegrated, whole-house approach. This year, it was jump-started with a $1 million grant from New York State through the office of Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. 

The effort is starting to bear fruit. The program’s pilot homes recently received renovations designed to help Syracuse households use less energy and create homes free of hazards that can cause health issues and negatively affect a person’s success at work and school. There are sure to be many more stories of healthier and safer Syracuse families coming out of this effort in the near future.