One of the primary goals of the Neighborhood Collaborative for Resilience (NCR), is to help neighborhoods create intentional strategies that holistically address equity, health and climate concerns. NCR prioritizes work that ensures historically disinvested communities and people of color gain tangible benefits from the investments made in their environment. A successful example of this work is the Master Home Environmentalist (MHE) program.
The early beginnings
Prior to the launch of the MHE program, Chet Kibble, Director of the Memphis & Shelby County Lead Safe Collaborative, was in conversation with Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare about conducting community assessments and inspections in North Memphis neighborhoods. Kibble and other community leaders had identified a pervasive issue that exists among North Memphis residents: A lack of resources and awareness surrounding environmental hazards within the home.
Out of this need for awareness and education, the MHE program was established. This program is a collaborative partnership between NCR, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, Healthy Homes Partnership, Memphis & Shelby County Health Department, and Lead Safe Collaborative. Together, these organizations created a series of workshops to improve health resilience in North Memphis.
After completing the training to become a certified Master Home Environmentalist, Kibble became the lead and environmental subcontractor responsible for training participants of the city’s first MHE program to detect hazards within their homes and identify problems that were preventing them from living in a safe and healthy space.
Bringing MHE to North Memphis
Once NCR became involved in the program, NCR members connected with North Memphis community development corporations and other nonprofits to establish a referral process for interested community members to enroll in the trainings with Kibble. In March of 2019, 10 North Memphis MHEs were trained and six went on to complete regular home assessments. Together, they set a goal to complete 100 home assessments, which they successfully met.
During a home assessment, residents learn from Master Home Environmentalists about how to address issues that cause allergies and asthma, such as mold dust, indoor air pollution (including asbestos, formaldehyde, combustion sources, tobacco and wood smoke), lead, pesticides and other hazardous chemicals. They also learn how to protect their homes against flash flooding, properly recycle items in their homes, improve energy efficiency and much more. The MHE program was designed not only to train community members to conduct their own healthy home assessments but to empower their neighbors, family members and friends to do the same.
The fight for health equity remains
There’s still a great deal of progress to be made concerning healthy equity in Memphis. Looking back on the program’s successes thus far, NCR has been a crucial partner.
“NCR’s support was critical,” Kibble said. “Not just from a financial perspective, but they got the community mobilized. They got the community together, raised awareness and recruited people to be in the program.”
There are plans to continue the MHE program and broaden its reach to South Memphis, train more residents, and even provide job opportunities for trained residents to become weatherization specialists for contractors in our city.
As awareness continues to grow, NCR will continue to provide the resources for people to take preventative measures to protect themselves, their homes and our communities.