Digging Deeper into Housing Needs in our Community

NJHI 2015: Building a Culture of Health in New Jersey – Communities Moving to Action Building a Culture of Health in Census Tract 435

The Morristown United for Healthy Living Coalition is focused on addressing housing, the built environment, and financial inequity in our community. Our strategies include education, outreach and relationship-building; policy change and advocacy; improvements to the physical environment; and justice in enforcing existing protections (see our strategies HERE under “Morristown United Coalition”).

In the past months, the “education, outreach and relationship-building” work group has conducted focus groups with community members to dig deeper into their needs and experiences related to housing.So far, we’ve spoken to 45 neighbors in focus groups held in both English and Spanish. Key themes are outlined below.

Displacement and Desire to Stay

Many community members are concerned that they won’t be able to stay in Morristown as rents increase and new development “pushes people out.” Some people expressed a belief that “certain people are desirable” within the town (e.g., young professionals), while others are not (e.g., immigrants and people living in public housing). But the vast majority of residents we spoke to want to stay. One resident said, “I want to live here because you can walk everywhere…because of convenience and the good school system.” Another resident who has lived in Morristown for 40+ years is retiring and fears she won’t be able to afford the community she’s always called “home.”

More Than Just a “Place to Live”

When discussing housing, it’s clear that being well-housed means more than just having a roof over your head. It’s also about being in a community and with that comes concerns about safety and security (drug use, noise, policing), affordability (rent, taxes, price of healthy foods), accessibility (for seniors and people with disabilities), parking, overcrowding, and available opportunities to be physically active.

Need for Actionable Information

When asked directly about what kind of information or training they would like to have to improve their housing situation, community members mentioned the need for relevant, timely, accessible information on topics such as tenant’s rights, citizenship rights, navigating affordable housing, permits, and health education. They also expressed the importance of “not being sent to a dead-end” or being given outdated information when it comes to community resources.

In the coming months, we’re looking forward to talking to more residents about their experiences and—most importantly—to taking action to make Morristown a healthy community for all.

To join us in this effort, contact morristownunited@njhealthmatters.org

Related: Access Multilingual Health Information Tools from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)

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Morristown United Steering Committee
North Jersey Health Collaborative