Evernorth Connections launched in January 2016. The goal of the Connections program is to improve the lives of affordable housing residents through initiatives to address food security, broadband access, and community-building, among others. The Connections program places residents at the center of our decision making by engaging them in conversations and with surveys to hear directly from them about their challenges and successes. We share the information gathered with housing and social service partners to better tailor our services to the distinct needs of each community. Our goal is to work with partners to bring these services to residents across all of northern New England.
Evernorth Connections, in partnership with the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition (VAHC), undertook a 6-month phone survey project to hear directly from residents about the social and economic challenges they faced during the COVID-19 pandemic and the long-term impacts it will have on their families. We spoke with the same 25-30 residents monthly; their stories ranged from tragic to heartwarming and everything in between. We shared our results with partners and local officials to amplify residents’ voices and advocate for their unique needs during this difficult time.
Evernorth strives to provide equitable internet access to our residents. Even where broadband may be available it is usually a significant strain on family budgets. The average household income in our Vermont portfolio is $21,600, and the residents in our COVID-19 phone survey reported paying an average of $79 a month for internet service.
Housing design impacts residents’ health and well-being. Evernorth creates housing to facilitate vibrant communities with “social infrastructure,” such as community gardens and indoor/outdoor gathering spaces.
Resident Input and Response. Integral to this process is collecting resident input through surveys and focus groups. Food security is critical to household stability, and surveys indicate many residents are concerned with paying for food. In response to our residents, we’re working to expand our portfolio of community gardens in a pilot project with the Vermont Community Garden Network. We’ve also worked with partners to establish on-site food pantries which are often run by resident volunteers. We continue to seek partnerships to develop more on-site food pantries in areas where access to healthy food is a challenge.