Emily Rice Published

Project Remodels Homes For Health

Construction workers are seen replacing red roof tiles.Nati Harnik/AP

The Livable Housing Project’s goal is to remodel and fix substandard housing that often affects minority households.

The project was established through a collaboration between Unicare Health Plan of West Virginia and the Marshall University Minority Health Institute in October 2021. 

A $1 million community grant provided by UniCare helped establish the program aimed at improving the livability and conditions of this home and four others chosen throughout the state of West Virginia.

Organizers partnered with a development group called LIFE Seeds to identify a home in disrepair in Cabell County for the first project.

“And so they went out, they did walk through the community, and they went through the local churches, local community centers, and people can apply for this project that they developed,” said LaDawna Walker Dean, minority health coordinator for the West Virginia Minority Health Initiative. “They made every decision and effort that they did with pursuing the community housing, and so their main focus was to pick a house that we can afford to not totally remodel, but to fix up.”

The project helps families with issues like mold and other concerns that arise when housing hasn’t been updated.

Dr. Anthony Woart is professor and chair of the Department of Public Health at Marshall University and founder and director of the Marshall University Minority Health Institute.

“Addressing social determinants of health is essential to addressing health disparities and health equity among minority and vulnerable populations,” Woart said. “I am therefore honored to have been a part of the Marshall University Minority Health Institute’s efforts in providing opportunities for livable housing among the minority and vulnerable populations of West Virginia as part of the institute’s mission and vision.”

After the unveiling of the first repaired and remodeled home, the project will focus on Kanawha, Mingo, McDowell and Logan counties.

“Our work has just started by helping minority families throughout West Virginia be able to have access to safe, affordable, good-quality housing that can positively impact a person’s health, well-being and overall community equity,” Walker said.

For more information visit the Marshall University Minority Health Institute.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with support from Charleston Area Medical Center and Marshall Health.