PROVIDENCE, RI– On Friday, May 22, ONE Neighborhood Builders (ONE|NB) awarded grants totaling $125,300 to six partner organizations from our Central Providence Health Equity Zone (CP-HEZ) to support their work improving economic opportunities and ameliorating health disparities. There were 11 submissions received in response to our request for proposals, with nearly $275,000 in total funding requested.

The CP-HEZ is a 25-member collaborative convened by ONE Neighborhood Builders. Across the state, HEZs, which Governor Gina Raimondo and Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), frequently highlight in their daily COVID-19 press briefings, have proven to be highly effective neighborhood partnerships. HEZs were created by RIDOH in 2015 to address the root causes of health disparities—which have long existed but are more evident during this pandemic than ever before. Shockingly, in our focus neighborhoods of Olneyville, Federal Hill, Hartford, and Valley, data has shown that lifespans are fully nine years lower than in other neighborhoods in Providence. The CP-HEZ works to remove obstacles to health, such as poverty, discrimination, racism, and their consequences, including insufficient access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education, and affordable housing.

The grantee organizations and brief grant descriptions appear below.

Manton Avenue Project – The grant funding will support free, quality after- and out-of-school-time programming for 70 young people and provide stipended opportunities for teens who are 14 and older. Programming will include a summer program for middle school playwriters, multiple afterschool programs for third through fifth graders, a “Teen Voices” paid internship for 10 students ages 14 years and older, biweekly online play festivals, an online “Young Womxn’s Group” designed to “create and connect” and online afterschool tutoring as needed.

Meeting Street – The grant will support a multi-layered technical assistance program designed to improve existing family childcare centers and training community members to open new, high-quality centers in their own homes. This work includes providing low-rated family childcare centers in Central Providence with no-cost technical assistance and business improvement partnership with Meeting Street as well as identifying individuals interested in opening their own family childcare center and enrolling them in a no-cost mentorship/professional development program with Meeting Street.

Providence Public Library – These funds will help adults improve their English language, workforce readiness, and digital literacy skills via a Learning Lounge held three hours per week over 48 weeks as well as Digital Literacy classes held two hours per week in 12-week cycles over 48 weeks.

Social Enterprise Greenhouse – The grant will support the success of Central Providence entrepreneurs and increase affordable childcare options in the neighborhoods. This includes education and training on the benefits and basics of co-op development (with an eye toward developing an affordable childcare co-op) via a six-week incubator program for Central Providence residents to complement learnings from cooperative training.

The Steel Yard – Grant funding will support a training program and apprenticeship in Metal Work Industry for Central Providence adults, providing three months of 20-hours-per-week paid apprenticeship, 30-hour welding training program, and fund a piece of public art permanently installed in the Central Providence area.

YWCA – This grant will support programming that will offer skill building and career exploration for Central Providence middle school youth who identify as females of color. This will include mentorship with undergraduate and graduate students with STEM knowledge, coding classes, introductions to technology career paths, and access to academic and industry leaders.

From October 2019 through January 2020, ONE Neighborhood Builders and collaborative partners in the CP-HEZ conducted a comprehensive needs assessment of nearly 600 residents from the Central Providence neighborhoods of Olneyville, Federal Hill, Hartford, and Valley. Through surveys and focus groups, we asked about barriers to economic opportunity. The most pressing issues highlighted by neighbors were lack of a living wage on which to meet basic needs and support a family, including underemployment, transportation challenges, and a lack of youth employment; insufficient affordable housing; and low-quality childcare.

With generous support from RIDOH and the Rhode Island Foundation, ONE|NB created an RFP to respond to the findings of our needs assessment and support our partners’ work in addressing social determinants of health (SDOHs) in our communities.

The CP-HEZ is run by a steering committee—a shared leadership model—composed of healthcare, advocacy, housing, and resident-engagement experts. This group partners with ONE|NB to guide and direct the CP-HEZ. Through a rigorous and comprehensive evaluation process, the steering committee selected the six funded projects mentioned above. It is important to note that all the applications were strong and worthy of funding, and this was a difficult selection process.

The projects chosen reflect our HEZ theory of change: namely, that by improving the social and economic conditions of the community, the overall health of the neighborhood will improve. When our neighbors are healthier, there is less of a need to access expensive healthcare services. Savings realized to the healthcare system have the potential to be reinvested “upstream” in initiatives that create enduring impacts on population health.

ONE Neighborhood Builders’ mission is to develop affordable housing and engage neighbors across Greater Providence to cultivate healthy, vibrant, and safe communities. Our three core strategies are robust housing development and quality real estate management, addressing root causes of health disparities, and embracing innovation and building the community development field.