Advancing Health Equity in Spartanburg
The Mary Black Foundation believes that health and wellness are basic human rights.
In 2018, the Foundation adopted a health equity statement:
Health equity exists when all people have access to opportunities to thrive, both physically and mentally, and no one is limited in achieving health and wellness because of their race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, ability, sexual orientation, age, income, or zip code.
However, we quickly realized that having a statement was not sufficient enough. We needed a framework to guide our work. In 2020, the Foundation’s Program Directors, Keisha Gray and Natalia Valenzuela Swanson sat down to research and create a framework that would guide us in achieving our mission to invest in people and communities for improved health, wellness, and success in Spartanburg County.
To advance health equity, Spartanburg will need to ensure it has: (1) high quality education & employment, (2) safe & supportive neighborhoods, and (3) accessible, affordable, & culturally relevant health care.
Framework in Action
While no one organization can achieve health equity alone, the Mary Black Foundation uses its resources- grants and impact investments, advocacy, capacity building, technical assistance, convening, and strategic alliances- to advance health equity. Below are examples of how the Mary Black Foundation is working to achieve health equity.
Achieving Health Equity in Our Community
In each of the three buckets of Mary Black Foundation’s Health Equity Framework, there are different sub-categories. These subcategories are more specific things that a community needs to have to ensure all people can achieve health and wellness.
Safe, Healthy, Connected, and Energy-Efficient Housing
Housing is considered affordable if 30% or less of a resident’s monthly income goes towards housing expenses, including utilities. When housing costs are more affordable and housing opportunities are more readily available, there is a lower likelihood of households becoming homeless, and households who do become homeless can exit homelessness more quickly and with greater likelihood of sustaining that housing long-term.
Across South Carolina, there is a shortage of rental homes affordable and available to extremely low income households (ELI), whose incomes are at or below the poverty guideline or 30% of their area median income (AMI). Many of these households are severely cost burdened, spending more than half of their income on housing. Severely cost burdened poor households are more likely than other renters to sacrifice other necessities like healthy food and healthcare to pay the rent, and to experience unstable housing situations like evictions.
Homes of Hope
Homes of Hope began in 1998 when the need for safe, affordable and energy-efficient housing options was discovered. The gap between minimum wage and fair market rent has escalated through the years, and that need has only intensified.
Homes of Hope provides market-value rentals at a below-market rate, offering families an opportunity to escape survival mode, catch their breath and make steps towards economic mobility. To date, they’ve constructed 675 homes, and with hundreds more in the works, and continue to help remedy the affordable housing crisis in our state.
Partnership with Mary Black Foundation
Mary Black Foundation recently announced Homes of Hope received $126,000 in grant funds to assist in the development of affordable rental housing units in the City of Spartanburg’s Southside. The Foundation will also provide a loan to Homes of Home as part of the development project.
President/CEO Don Oglesby said:
“Many times, assumptions are made that affordable housing is the end of the story for the family that is housed. And it is indeed a critical and successful end to a PART of the story. But in so many other ways, the story is just beginning. Financial stability, a sense of safety, a sense of community, and a starting place for asset growth, all lead to better financial wellness, less stress on the family, overall family health, and improvements in children’s education and hopes for the future.
Thanks to our partnership with The Mary Black Foundation, we will build 7 more homes for families in Spartanburg and will walk alongside of them on this betterment journey, all because of the “starting place” of affordable housing.
The Mary Black Foundation has been a thought leader and investment leader in this area for a long time, and it is thrilling for us to partner with such a great organization. Together we link arms to connect households to the resources they need for them to be the heroes of their own stories!”