Black History Month is an annual commemoration of the best of Black life and culture in our history, a time to celebrate the lives and accomplishments of renowned inventors and educators, activists and organizers, authors and artists, and countless others. But in the midst of this celebration, we ought not lose sight of a lingering crisis, namely the housing and homelessness crisis that disproportionately affects Black America. This crisis can only be properly understood by applying the lens of history.
Across the U.S. and here in Ohio, Black people make up a grossly disproportionate percentage of persons experiencing homelessness, are less likely to own their own home, and have a significantly lower household net worth. Consider –
- Black people are just 13% of the US population, but 40% of those experiencing homelessness
- Among Ohioans accessing homelessness services in 2017, 48.3% were African-American
- Among white households nationally, over 73% are homeowners while for Black households, just 42% are homeowners.
- As of 2019, net worth for the average white household was $188,200 while average Black household net worth was only $24,000
A clear-eyed historical perspective shows us that these realities are the results of decades of discriminatory policies and practices that have targeted Black America. Chief among these were the decades-long practice of redlining begun by the FHA in the 1930s and the lingering affects of segregation; the disastrous affects to Black communities from “urban renewal,” directly related to the Fair Housing Act of 1949 and the Federal Highway Act of 1956; the so-called “war on drugs” and ensuing explosion of incarceration rates among African-Americans; and the sub-prime mortgage fiasco that sparked the recession of 2008.
Despite this discouraging history, there are reasons to be hopeful. We at COHHIO are part of a national network of organizations and individuals grappling with the uncomfortable truths of racial inequities in housing and homelessness. Our Racial Equity Committee (REC) functions to keep equity at the center of our advocacy, trainings, technical assistance, and organizational development. The Racial Equity Action Committee on Homelessness in Ohio (REACH-Ohio) is the statewide collective that strives to implement equitable practices in the industry across Ohio. See the COHHIO website and the resources below to become more informed and to get involved.
- Segregated by Design, a short animated film about the history of redlining in America
- Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s analysis of the impact of redlining on recent eviction patterns
- HUD’s Coordinated Entry Demonstration to create more equitable homelessness response systems
- SPARC: A C4 Racial Equity Initiative
- The Roots of Structural Racism Project
- National Alliance to End Homelessness’s Racial Equity Resources