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.
Every year Evernorth gathers the demographics of our Vermont tenants using data from the Vermont Housing Finance Agency’s tenant database. We use this information to try to better understand the diverse groups of people who live in our housing. This data helps shape our Connections Program initiatives and informs affordable housing advocacy.
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.
Resident Services Survey
In 2023 the Connections team completed a survey of resident service coordinators, managers, and other service-related staff members across Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. This survey allows us to better understand the outstanding work that our partners are doing to serve northern New England’s affordable housing residents; it also helps illustrate the need for additional funding, advocacy, and support for resident services programs.