Habitat for Humanity International marks Mental Health Awareness Month with virtual panel discussion

ATLANTA (May 9, 2023) The impact that a safe, affordable home has on a person’s physical growth and well-being is clear when families are able to move out of unstable, unsanitary environments. Beyond reduced exposure to allergens, toxins and cold, however, there is a greater benefit: the effect that housing stability has on a person’s mental health.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified home improvement as one of six evidence-based, high-impact solutions for addressing social determinants of health. Improving housing quality improves general health status, respiratory health, mental health and reduces the risk of injury. One study based in New York City found that in the two years following an eviction, people were more likely to require hospitalization for a mental health condition than those who had not been evicted.

On Wednesday, May 10, Habitat for Humanity International will convene a virtual panel of housing and mental health experts to explore the ways in which safe, affordable housing is connected to holistic wellbeing, and solutions for scaling efforts that achieve both. +You: The vital links between mental health and housing will take place at 1:00-2:00 p.m. ET.

David Michael, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of the Tri-State, will moderate the panel, featuring Dr. Anthony Carino, director of psychiatry at the Center for Urban Community Services, which annually serves more than 35,000 homeless and formerly homeless individuals, many of whom have mental health issues. Also joining the panel are Dr. Jonah DeChants, senior research scientist at The Trevor Project, which aims to end suicide among LGBTQ young people; Lennon Flowers, co-founder and executive director of The Dinner Party Labs, which helps connect people dealing with loss and grief; and Shannon Razsadin, executive director of the Military Family Advisory Network, who will speak to the intersectionality of housing and mental health for veterans, and military-connected families.

Through the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, veterans can partially subsidize homeownership expenses for up to 15 years using a HUD-VASH housing choice rental assistance voucher. However, until recently, if a veteran obtained permanent housing, they no longer qualified to use the VA’s mental health services. Last year, Habitat partnered with the VA to develop a program that allows veterans who purchase a home using a HUD-VASH voucher to maintain their access to these critical services.

“Habitat deeply understands the critical connection between safe and affordable housing, and wellness,” said Tawkiyah Jordan, vice president of housing and community strategy at Habitat for Humanity International. “Our person-centered, trauma-informed approach allows us to partner with individuals and families in ways help improve stability, which impacts other key outcomes including physical, emotional and mental health.”

This conversation is part of Habitat for Humanity’s ongoing +You series, bringing together experts from across the U.S. and around the world to discuss how housing intersects and interacts with other areas of societal concern including public health, racial equity, faith and the economy.

About Habitat for Humanity International

Driven by the vision that everyone needs a decent place to live, Habitat for Humanity found its earliest inspirations as a grassroots movement on an interracial community farm in south Georgia. Since its founding in 1976, the Christian housing organization has grown to become a leading global nonprofit working in local communities across all 50 states in the U.S. and in more than 70 countries. Families and individuals in need of a hand up partner with Habitat for Humanity to build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. Through financial support, volunteering or adding a voice to support affordable housing, everyone can help families achieve the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build better lives for themselves. Through shelter, we empower. To learn more, visit habitat.org.