HCN News & Notes

Arise Receives Grant to Educate, Protect Low-income Residents From Mold in Homes

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield social-justice organization Arise has received a $40,000 grant from E4TheFuture to expand its work educating residents about the dangers of indoor mold, advocating for implementation of mold-control codes, and providing residents with HEPA air purifiers that can help contain mold spores that aggravate respiratory conditions.

Mold is an allergy and asthma trigger, and it’s becoming more common in homes — disproportionately so in communities of color and low-income communities — as the climate heats up.

“In a city that the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has called the asthma capital of the nation, air purifiers are only Band-Aids,” Arise Executive Director Tanisha Arena said. “But they are also tools we can use to address one of the many effects of environmental injustice in Springfield while we continue to advocate for better public policies and call out root causes of injustice and inequity, such as structural racism.”

Arise was among the organizations that successfully advocated for getting mold added to Massachusetts’ Sanitary Code, which establishes minimum health and safety standards for dwellings. Board of Health agents can issue citations for mold and excess moisture — at least in theory.

“In Springfield, implementation is a challenge,” Arena said. “With the E4TheFuture grant, we will keep fighting for code enforcement when landlords neglect mold problems, continue to educate our neighbors, and add to the hundreds of families with asthma diagnoses that we’ve been able to help by providing air purifiers.”

Arise’s community-led work on a variety of justice and equity issues has earned it a reputation for effectiveness that caught E4TheFuture’s attention.

“Arise’s work is perfectly aligned with E4TheFuture’s mission to promote residential energy efficiency and sustainable resource solutions to advance climate goals equitably for all people,” said Pat Stanton, executive director of E4TheFuture.

“Mold is one of the leading adverse health and safety conditions that make it impossible to install energy-efficiency measures in existing older homes. Mold in rental properties is a clear indication of deferred property maintenance and high energy costs that are systemic in low-income communities,” Stanton added. “When it comes to environmental justice, the people closest to the problems tend to be wisest about the solutions. E4TheFuture is excited to support Arise and to keep learning from Tanisha and other dedicated community leaders.”

Arise’s efforts encompass intersecting areas of concern for lower-income people in Springfield, including housing, the criminal legal system, and environmental injustice. For example, Arise successfully advocated blocking a planned biomass plant that would burn 1,200 tons of waste wood per day from being built in a low-income community already suffering from high rates of asthma. The biomass company is suing the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection in an effort to revive the project.

“E4TheFuture approached us, and securing the grant was a fairly easy process,” Arena said. “It was nice to hear, ‘we heard about the work you’re doing, and we want to support it.’”