AIHC On Site: Learning from Bon Secours in West Baltimore

Vacant Houses in West Baltimore

At the second meeting of CCI’s Accelerating Investments for Healthy Communities (AIHC) initiative in Baltimore, Bon Secours Health System led participating hospitals and health systems on a site visit. Illustrating how segregation, structural racism, and disinvestment have shaped Baltimore neighborhoods, participants wound through the current contours of West Baltimore’s landscape from Fayette Street to West Baltimore Street to Fulton Avenue, passing a mix of historic parks and small businesses interwoven with dilapidated buildings.

A recent study by the Baltimore City Planning Office highlights significant racial disparities in how the City allocates public construction dollars. According to the study, “over the past five years, the [capital] budget allocated an average of $15 million for projects in Baltimore neighborhoods where more than 75 percent of residents are white. In areas where more than 75 percent of people are minorities, the figure was $8 million.” Stephanie Smith, Assistant Director for Equity, Engagement and Communications in the Baltimore City Department of Planning and CCI Fulcrum Fellow shared, “the work ahead is to unplan the inequities that were planned into the city that keep neighborhoods from thriving.”

The Baltimore tour made visible the “planned inequities” highlighted in the study. At times, it was hard to comprehend the scale of resources that might be needed to finance transformation and broaden opportunity for all residents.

Across the country, pioneering hospitals and health systems are beginning to look beyond their walls and play a role in changing the policies and practices that affect how money flows into disinvested communities. CCI’s AIHC initiative is working with eight of these institutions. Our aspiration is to learn what it will take to deepen upstream investments, specifically in affordable housing.

For Bon Secours Baltimore, neighborhood realities are a key driver behind the decision to step into a more active role in community investment than many of their peers. “We are in the community and of the community. When we look outside our hospitals windows, we stare right into the living rooms of our patients,” said Curtis Clark, Vice President of Mission, Bon Secours Health System.

Throughout the site visit, leaders from Bon Secours shared how their mission – “to bring compassion to health care and to be Good Help to Those in Need” – drives them to work with the community to improve the conditions where their patients live.

Through their participation in AIHC, Bon Secours Health System in Baltimore is building on over 20 years of work to invest in their community. Leaders from the treasury, mission, and community benefit departments are asking tough questions about how to scale their work and accelerate their investments to generate more affordable housing faster. They are also exploring how Bon Secours Health System can adopt a system-wide approach that engages all of the institutions in deepening investments in the communities they serve. “By participating in AIHC, we hope to more effectively leverage our health system’s capital and other resources to accelerate our development of housing and meet the needs of our community,” said George Kleb, Executive Director of Housing and Community Development, Bon Secours Baltimore.

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(Photo credit to charmcity123 on Flickr)

Transforming investment in communities

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CCI is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and The California Endowment.

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