Army registry to target complaints in wake of housing crisis
By ROSE L. THAYER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 16, 2019
AUSTIN, Texas — The Army has launched a registry to allow residents of service housing to document their concerns of health and environmental hazards in the wake of the recent military housing crisis, the Army Medical Command announced Tuesday.
The Housing Environmental Health Response Registry is a 24/7 phone line that is open to former and current Army housing residents and aims to address housing health or safety concerns, according to a news release from the command.
People answering calls will provide information on environmental health hazards, assist in seeking medical care for any housing-related illnesses or concerns, and serve as a two-way exchange of information.
“They will document the caller’s concerns and assist them with access to medical care if needed as well as referring any housing-related concerns to the appropriate installation department of public works,” John Resta, director of the U.S. Army Public Health Center and acting deputy chief of staff of Public Health for the U.S. Army Medical Command, said in the news release. “We want to hear all concerns so we can make sure they are properly addressed.”
Training for people answering registry calls was specialized to meet these housing needs, said Doug Holl, a spokesman for the medical command.
The registry comes in the wake of a 2018 investigation by Reuters exposing the poor living conditions of some military families. Since publication, stories of termites, black mold, rodent infestations, lead paint and slow response time for maintenance requests have led Congress and the Defense Department to respond with hearings, site visits and a tenant bill of rights for military families.
The Military Family Advisory Network, which advocates for servicemembers and their families, responded to the reporting by conducting its own survey. About 56 percent of the nearly 17,000 respondents said they had a negative view of their living conditions.
The registry will operate in three phases, Holl said. The first is designed for “rapid response” to get information to residents. The second pulls data collected through enrollment into the Enterprise Military Housing system and the Defense Occupational and Environmental Health Readiness System, he said. Both are Defense Department systems of record.
The third phase will provide an integrated solution to understand health effects of potential environmental hazards found in housing, assess future needs for health interventions and health education, and inform individuals regarding potential exposure and adverse health impacts, Holl said.
“The Army’s enduring obligation is to take care of our people — the health and welfare of our servicemembers and their families is of the utmost importance to our continued readiness,” he said.
The registry does not replace communication methods in place now for residents requesting maintenance on their Army housing. Maintenance requests should continue to go through their local housing office. The registry is an additional resource, Holl said.
Each branch of the service has addressed housing concerns in its own way and have included in-person town hall meetings at every military installation. The Navy has an online survey available this month to sailors in privatized housing.
Anyone interested in enrolling in the Army’s registry can call the toll-free hotline at 1-800-984-8523. Within the Defense Switched Network, overseas soldiers and families can call 312-421-3700, while others stateside can call 421-3700. The stateside commercial line is 210-295-3700.
For information about the registry and links to community resource guides and housing hazard information, go to https://phc.amedd.army.mil/topics/campaigns/housing.