Addressing asthma hot spots in Cottage Grove community

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Some of the people who live in the Cottage Grove community in Greensboro say there was a time when they took pride in their neighborhood.

“It was just a whole lot better,” Verna Torain said.

She has lived in the community for 25 years.

She lives in a house, but as president of the Cottage Grove Neighborhood Association, she has seen the decline of housing conditions particularly at Avalon Trace Apartments.

“These apartments have been going down for a long time,” she said.

People who live there say on the exterior of the property, there are apartments with boarded windows and trash is constantly strewn throughout the property.

“Every time you turn around somebody is dumping trash on the street, mattresses, tires,” Torain said.

But the people who live there are especially concerned about what’s being found inside the apartments.

The complex has had ongoing problems with sewage leaks, inadequate heating, roaches, mold and other household issues not being addressed in a timely manner.

Mold has been linked to asthma cases in the neighborhood, including in kids.

“The substandard or low-quality housing and the hot spots are in the same locations. Later testing shows that there is a statistical correlation between substandard housing and asthma instances in communities,” said Stephen Sills, director of the Center for Housing and Community Studies at UNCG.

Collaborative Cottage Grove was awarded $250,000 in grant money from the BUILD Health Challenge to address housing and health needs in the community.

Greensboro Housing Coalition is one of the agencies in the Collaborative Cottage Grove.

To be eligible for grant money, a community agency, a health system and local health department had to commit to working together.

The Greensboro Housing Coalition, Cone Health and UNCG’s Center for Housing and Community Studies are collaborating to identify asthma hot spots throughout Cottage Grove.

“What we’d really love to be able to do is to understand which children are living in homes that are likely to be places where their asthma is going to be exacerbated,” said Kathy Colville, director of healthy communities at Cone Health.

The findings will be put into a map that will allow Greensboro Housing Coalition to direct people who live there to the appropriate services in the city.

“We don’t know what to remediate unless we know what’s going on in these spots that mapping is going to help us take a look at,” said Josie Williams, project coordinator with the Greensboro Housing Coalition.

Cone Health is also matching the grant money with $250,000 in funding -- it’s a mix between cash and “in-kind” services.

The Guilford County Department of Public Health is also a partner.

It operates a mobile farmers market in the community and provides a diabetes prevention program.

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