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Boston Medical Center-led initiative wins $5 million from JPMorgan Chase to help inner city neighborhoods

Funds would go toward job training and affordable housing in Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan

Dr. Megan Sandel is leading the new initiative on behalf of Boston Medical Center.
Dr. Megan Sandel is leading the new initiative on behalf of Boston Medical Center.Photo courtesy of Boston Medical Center

JPMorgan Chase is awarding $5 million over three years to a new Boston Medical Center-led initiative aimed at preparing residents of inner-city neighborhoods for better paying jobs and increasing access to affordable housing.

The financial services giant and the hospital plan to announce on Thursday that Boston is the latest winner in its “AdvancingCities” Challenge. JPMorgan Chase’s money will help help fund the new initiative, dubbed the Boston Opportunity System Collaborative.

Dr. Megan Sandel, a pediatrician leading the effort for BMC, said the money would pay for occupational support services for 1,100 people in Mattapan, Dorchester, and Roxbury, with a goal of finding living-wage jobs for at least 500 of them, including at hospitals as well as biotech and tech companies. Some money will also go toward creating 100 new affordable housing units, and preserving another 150 units.

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“We recognize that where you live may be the strongest predictor of your health,” Sandel said. “More and more, we have to be thinking in place-based terms. We have to get outside of [the hospital’s] four walls.”

Sandel said BMC applied in January, before the COVID-19 pandemic upended Boston. But the coronavirus has underscored the project’s importance, she said, with higher infection rates often reported in places such as Dorchester and Mattapan.

Brigham and Women’s and Boston Children’s hospitals have signed on to help, including with job placement. Sandel said she hopes to rope in employers from downtown Boston as well, and focus much of the training and employment work in communities within walking distance of the Fairmount rail line.

“[We’re] thinking about ways we can use that rail line as a way to get to the downtown jobs, so people can earn more money and bring those dollars back into the neighborhood,” Sandel said.

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Community partners include the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative and BlueHub Loan Fund for the housing work, and Action for Equity and Jewish Vocational Service for the employment work.

“The Boston Medical Center, at the helm, is really critical,” said Abby Marquand, philanthropy program officer at JPMorgan Chase. “But they’re also leading a diverse set of organizations.”

That diversity of participation is among the reasons the bank picked Boston as one of seven winners from a pool of more than 150 proposals from 78 communities. Marquand said JPMorgan Chase’s ongoing branch expansion in the Boston area — so far, about 20 have opened during the past two years in Massachusetts — had no role in the contest selection but was a happy coincidence.

Sandel hopes to attract grants from other sources, to sustain the Boston initiative, broaden its impact, and keep it going.

“Our dollars in this case … are catalytic,” Marquand said. “There’s the expectation and the hope that [the initiative] lasts beyond this three-year grant term.”

BMC plans to spend $1 million of the grant on administrative costs, including by hiring two staff people to help oversee the program. The other $4 million would be split evenly between job training and affordable housing efforts.




Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.