Homelessness in the US is a result of centuries of systemic racism and economic inequality.
We all have a part to play in achieving functional zero in our communities. Here are a few ways you can take action:
Support housing growth in your community
In addition to increasing housing stock for people currently experiencing homelessness, we need to increase the supply of all affordable and accessible housing. Talk to your family and friends about local developments. Show up to your local zoning and planning commissions meetings to make your voice heard!
Valid concerns about parking and traffic congestion can and should be negotiated in the planning process, but let’s face it, many quality of life ‘obstacles’ are thinly veiled cover for racist or classist attitudes and opinions. Don’t be afraid to say, “Yes, this project will ‘change the character of our neighborhood’ – for the better!”
Support local and statewide measures that increase housing and homelessness funding
Especially given the economic downturn caused by COVID-19, new revenue measures that raise money for housing and homelessness will face extreme opposition. Ballotpedia is a great resource for staying up to date on local and state ballot measures.
Vote in every election!
Participation in every election, not just national and state races, is critical to ensure that our communities’ priorities are reflected in how our money is spent.
Hold your local policymakers accountable
Learn who represents you in your city and county government and pay attention to what they are doing and saying. County supervisors, especially, have control over a very large budget that covers public health, behavioral health, and housing and human services. Email your representatives or join their virtual board meetings and town halls to ask what they are doing to create more affordable housing, provide rental assistance to prevent homelessness, and address the significant racial disparities among people experiencing homelessness.
Support regional collaboration and strategic planning when it comes to housing
Don’t let local policymakers fool you. Homelessness is a problem in every county in the Bay Area. This is a regional problem, and we have to work together on regional solutions for it.
Support federal government investment in housing
Decreasing federal investment in housing infrastructure has led to a housing shortage across the country. With a possible change of administration in November, we have to opportunity to lobby for increased federal funding for affordable housing and solutions to homelessness.
There is always more to learn. Here are a few resources we recommend to deepen your knowledge about housing, homelessness, and systemic racism:
- The Color of Law, A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein
- How Housing Supply Shapes Access to Opportunity, a project of the Terner Center for Housing Innovation
- Statewide Goals, Local Tools: Case Studies in Affordable Housing Development in California, also from the Terner Center
- Systematic Inequality; How America’s Structural Racism Helped Create the Black-White Wealth Gap, from the Center for American Progress
- Systemic Inequality: Displacement, Exclusion, and Segregation, from the Center for American Progress
- National Alliance to End Homelessness’ Demographic Data Project: Part III: Race, Ethnicity, and Homelessness
- How Economic Crises and Sudden Disasters Increase Racial Disparities in Homeownership, from the Urban Institute