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BHN Live Pt 2: Is homelessness a result of a 'community fail' misunderstood? Experts say yes

Community advocates from California, Ohio and Texas share the root causes of homelessness in communities


In this Black Headline News Live episode, news anchor, Julia Dudley Najieb, reviews the solutions a few cities and counties across the nations are using to decrease homelessness dramatically in this Part 2: Homelessness, replicating solutions that have been proven to work broadcast.

From an Ethnic Media Services briefing last month, Dudley Najieb featured the success stories of these almost "functional zero" homelessness communities. Community advocates, Ana Rausch and Catherine Villarreal, located in Harris County Texas, and Matthew Lewis of YIMBY out of Berkeley, Calif., both spoke about how the historical causes of homelessness and its direct link to the Black population who is homeless in disproportionate numbers.

It's been a national crisis for decades: as of 2020. homelessness has had a crippling effect on the lives of over 580,400 people in the Unites States without a place to call home, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report Part 1 to Congress stated that there was 2.2 percent increase in homelessness from 2019.

The report found that between 2019 and 2020, homelessness increased significantly among unsheltered populations and people experiencing chronic homelessness. Veteran homelessness did not decrease compared with 2019, and homelessness among family households did not decrease for the first time since 2010. The report also found that people of color are significantly over-represented among people experiencing homelessness.

“The findings of the 2020 AHAR Part 1 Report are very troubling, even before you consider what COVID-19 has done to make the homelessness crisis worse,” said Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia L. Fudge. “Thanks to President Biden’s leadership, we are once again putting Housing First to end this crisis and build strong, healthy communities, as reflected in the American Rescue Plan. I look forward to working with President Biden to implement this historic package to deliver robust, equitable relief to those experiencing homelessness. Housing should be a right, not a privilege, and ensuring that every American has a safe, stable home is a national imperative.”

African Americans and indigenous people (including Native Americans and Pacific Islanders) remained considerably overrepresented among the homeless population compared to the U.S. population. Almost 4 of every 10 people experiencing homelessness in January 2020 were Black or African American (39% or 228,796 people). A higher percentage of people in shelter were Black or African American (47% or 167,205 people) than were people experiencing homelessness in unsheltered locations (27% or 61,591). Almost a quarter of all people experiencing homelessness, 23 percent, were Hispanic or Latino (counting people of all races who identify as Hispanic or Latino).

  • On a single night in January 2020, 580,466 people – about 18 of every 10,000 people in the United States – experienced homelessness across the United States. This represents 2.2 percent increase from 2019.

  • After steady reductions from 2010 to 2016, homelessness has increased in the last four consecutive years.

  • The increase in homelessness was due to the rise in unsheltered individuals (a 7 percent increase from 2019) and this increase impacted the large increase in individuals experiencing chronic homelessness (a 15 percent increase since 2019). The increase in unsheltered homelessness is driven largely by increases in California and coincide with increases in overall homelessness.

  • Veteran homelessness did not decline in 2020. 2020 was the first year that homelessness among family households did not fall since 2010.

  • Youth homelessness is slightly down (a 2.2 percent decrease from 2019).

  • People of color are significantly over-represented among people experiencing homelessness.

In part 2 of this BHN special report, two community homelessness prevention advocate experts featured in this broadcast purported that there is definitely a disproportionate amount of Black people homeless compared to the total population, which is always much less.

Catherine Villarreal and Ana Rausch of the Coalition for the Homeless in Houston, Texas explained that in 2011, Harris County has the sixth largest homeless population in the United States; it was so bad, the federal government had to step in to help regulate and implement guidance to get things back on track.

Meanwhile, Matthew Lewis, director of communications at California YIMBY, reveals how his hometown where he lives now, Berkeley, CA, was the culprit of redlining that spread throughout the nation during the 1920s. He further details the effects of purposeful downzoning laws and tactics implemented by local governments and city planning commissions enabled discrimination in housing to continue throughout the 80s and 90s.

Catherine Villarreal has been with the Coalition since 2020. Born and raised in Atlanta, GA, Catherine has worked in cause-driven communications for over a decade in Houston and in Washington, D.C., including at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the Houston Parks Board, and Houston Endowment. She has a degree in public policy from Duke University.

Ana Rausch has been with the Coalition since 2013. Originally from Belém, Brazil,

Ana was seven years old when she moved to Houston with her mom and brother. Ana attended the University of Houston where she studied psychology and has more than 22 years of experience in project management & system change implementation.

After a ten-year career as a broadcast and print journalist, Matthew Lewis moved into advocacy communications with a focus on environmental justice, energy policy, and climate change. From 2008 through 2012, he was Director of Communications for the ClimateWorks Foundation, an international philanthropic effort launched by the Hewlett and Packard Foundations to support global pollution-reduction and clean energy policy efforts. In 2012, he joined Next Generation, where he helped manage campaigns related to early childhood health, poverty alleviation, climate policy, and clean air. Matthew is a YIMBY homeowner who believes there’s plenty of room on his block for more neighbors.

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