Examining Racial Disparity: 78% of People Experiencing Homelessness Were People of Color

Racial Disparity: Strategies to Promote Equity and Reduce Disparate Outcomes for People Experiencing Homelessness

The Center for Social Innovation released a new report highlighting the racial disparity of African Americans, American Indians, and Alaska Natives among people experiencing homelessness. 

In the communities they examined, 78.3% of people experiencing homelessness were people of color.

“Supporting Partnerships for Anti-Racist Communities (SPARC)” identifies strategies to promote equity and reduce disparate outcomes in homeless services.

Understanding and addressing racial disparity was a key topic at the National Alliance to End Homelessness’ National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness that took place earlier this month in Los Angeles.

Among people experiencing homelessness in the six SPARC communities:

  • 82.6% of young adults ages 18-24
  • 73.1% of single adults 25+
  • 70.3% of family members

are people of color.

The executive summary writes, “People of color are dramatically more likely than White people to experience homelessness in the United States. This is no accident; it is the result of centuries of structural racism that have excluded historically oppressed people—particularly Black and Native Americans—from equal access to housing, community supports, and opportunities for economic mobility.”

In the SPARC report is based on data-based research in six local partner communities across the country. “Through an ambitious mixed-methods (quantitative and qualitative) study, the SPARC team documented high rates of homelessness among people of color and began to map their pathways into and barriers to exit from homelessness.”

Key findings in the SPARC report include:

  • “Although Black people comprise 13% of the general population in the United States and 26% of those living in poverty, they account for more than 40% of the homeless population, suggesting that poverty rates alone do not explain the over-representation.”
  • “Because of the complex underlying issues that drive high rates of homelessness among people of color, it is important to address multiple levels simultaneously. It is not possible to solve these issues at the programmatic level alone.”
  • “The racial demographics of the homeless services workforce do not reflect the diversity of people served, particularly at the senior management level.”
  • “To the underlying systemic inequities that have for decades put people of color at greater risk for experiencing homelessness” recommendations in the report to address racial inequality center around organizational change, research, policy and individual action.

The SPARC concludes, “The homelessness field stands at a crossroads: continue to use color-blind strategies to solve an entrenched social problem that disproportionately impacts people of color, or embrace a racial equity approach to addressing homelessness. At this crossroads, it is critical to understand that racial equity should not simply be another initiative or program that is implemented in the mix with other strategies. Instead, commitment to racial equity must permeate all other tactics and strategies that cities, counties, states, and the nation use to prevent and end homelessness.”

An upcoming Public Policy Forum in New Jersey will focus on an issue related to the historic structural racism in the homeless system uncovered in the SPARC report. On Wednesday, May 16, 2018, Monarch Housing Associates in partnership with Seton Hall University Law School, the Anti-Poverty Network of NJ, and NJ Institute for Social Justice will host a Public Policy Forum on The Color of Law.

Please save the date for this important event and opportunity to delve deeper into the issue of segregation. The Forum will include the opportunity to discuss how we can all work to further advance fair housing in New Jersey. Registration for the May 16 event to be held at Seton Hall Law School in Newark will begin in early April.

Supporting Partnerships for Anti-Racist Communities

olor of Law Public Policy Forum

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