Leading the Way in Lead Work

Many of our clients rely on the Community Foundation as a source for solutions to create long-term transformative change in Western New York. One challenge our community faces is lead poisoning due to our region’s aging housing stock. Over 90 percent of Buffalo’s housing was built before 1978, the year that lead paint was banned. Lead poisoning from chipped or peeling paint is especially dangerous for children under the age of six because it causes permanent brain damage impacting their ability to succeed in school. The good news is that lead poisoning is preventable and there is a highly engaged group of cross-sector partners, led by the Community Foundation, which is working to address this issue. In 2008, the Community Foundation launched its efforts and began serving as the backbone organization for this work.

In March 2018, the Community Foundation, on behalf of a dedicated group of partners including the City of Buffalo and Erie County, was pleased to share a first-of-its-kind Lead Action Plan with the community. The report detailed a common understanding of the landscape for lead exposure and made strategic recommendations to eliminate lead poisoning in Buffalo and Erie County. A Lead Safe Task Force was formed to see through the report’s recommendations. Here are a few early highlights of the group’s work:

  • The Community Foundation received a grant from the Convergence Partnership of the Tides Foundation, a national funders collaborative, to work on lead with a health equity lens at three levels, including:
    • Working with community partners to educate and train residents on lead poisoning prevention and advocacy while collecting stories of their lived experiences
    • Working with community partners to train direct service workers, including Green and Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI) partners, City Inspectors and County Sanitarians on asset-based communication and the Racial Equity Impact Analysis tool
    • Training Erie County Sanitarians, City of Buffalo Department of Permits and Inspections and decision makers, including the Buffalo Common Council, on the Racial Equity and Impact Analysis tool
  • The Community Foundation helped facilitate a statewide network to develop a state advocacy agenda and fund an advocacy group for lead legislation. The legislation was approved as part of the state budget process, including lowering the elevated blood level at which the health department engages with families, ensuring more children and families receive the education and assistance needed.
  • The Community Foundation secured a consultant and an agency to develop a communications campaign using human centered design aimed at landlords around lead poisoning prevention to be released this fall. The goal will be to have more asset-based, positive messaging than those used in the past.

On June 18, the Community Foundation hosted “Shining a Spotlight on Lead Hazards,” an event that addressed how the Community Foundation is working with partners to prevent children from getting poisoned in their homes. The salon featured Matt Ammon, Director of HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes, who gave an overview of the national landscape on preventing lead poisoning and Lou Petrucci, Assistant Director of the Department of Permit and Inspection Services, City of Buffalo, who gave a progress report of the Lead Action Plan. The evening concluded with a performance of the “Legacy of Lead” by the Ujima Theatre Company.