Healthy Homes Initiative available to Cook County homeowners and renters
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Healthy Homes Initiative available to Cook County homeowners and renters

The Healthy Homes Initiative is a collaboration effort between Cook County Public Health and Human Services and the Housing Redevelopment Authority. The objective of the initiative is to ensure safe and sanitary housing for residents of the county and, in doing so, maintain a healthy housing stock. It is a grant-funded project by the Minnesota Department of Health. 

The initiative went live on Oct. 3 and has already received positive feedback from the community. “So far, it’s been really great,” said Andrea Orest, public health educator with Public Health and Human Services.

After receiving a request for an assessment from a renter or homeowner, the Healthy Home Initiative team conducts an interior and exterior assessment of the home to evaluate risk and provide recommended mitigation measures.

The assessment process follows eight identified principles. The eight principles of healthy homes include:

  • Keep it dry: prevent water from entering your home through leaks in roofing systems, rainwater from entering due to improper drainage, and leak-free plumbing.
  • Keep it clean: control sources of dust and contaminants by creating smooth and cleanable surfaces, reducing clutter, and using effective wet-cleaning methods.
  • Keep it safe: store poisons, chemicals, medications, and firearms out of reach of children. Secure loose rugs and keep children’s play areas free from hard or sharp surfaces. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and keep fire extinguishers on hand.
  • Keep it well-ventilated: ventilate bathrooms and kitchens and use the whole house ventilation to supply fresh air to reduce the concentration of contaminants in the home.
  • Keep it pest-free: all pests look for food, water, and shelter: seal cracks and openings throughout the home and store food in pest-resistant containers.
  • Keep it contaminant-free: reduce lead-related hazards in pre-1978 homes by fixing deteriorated paint and keeping floors, and windows clean using a wet-cleaning approach. Test your home for radon, a naturally occurring dangerous gas that enters homes through soil, crawlspaces, and foundational cracks.
  • Keep your home maintained: inspect, clean, and repair your home routinely. Take care of minor repairs and problems before they become large repairs.
  • Thermally controlled: houses that do not maintain adequate temperatures may place the safety of residents at increased risk from exposure to extreme cold or heat.

Orest said the team would “follow up with an assessment report to the homeowner or renter once the assessment is completed. And we work with them to find a mitigation plan that fits their priorities.”

The grant provides $750 per household for mitigation, supplies, and home repairs. However, Orest said if the mitigation efforts go beyond the allotted $750, the team will help individuals find other resources that might be available locally.

In addition, Orest said a Healthy Housing Network Group was recently formed to help assist in reviewing the forums and processes. The group is creating a local resource map with educational and financial resources for local homeowners and renters. The Healthy Housing Network Group consists of community members and numerous collaborative agencies. 

To sign up for a healthy home assessment, contact Andrea Orest at 218-220-5536 or

WTIP’s Kalli Hawkins spoke with Orest to learn more about the Healthy Homes Initiative. Audio from the interview is below.