Racism and Homelessness

Understanding the Racial Inequity of Homelessness

The compounded history of redlining, disinvestment, and other forms of discrimination have created the current system of institutional racism which disproportionately impacts communities of color in the United States. As a result, racism is widely practiced within the larger institutions and structures of social life, and it plays a significant role in creating and maintaining the disparate outcomes that characterize the landscape of racial inequality.

this is an icon default
78.3 %

According to a SPARC report, 78.3% of all people experiencing homelessness in the study were people of color.

this is an icon default
44 %

Home ownership among Black or African Americans is the lowest in the United States at 44%, according to Racial Equity Partners.

this is an icon default
24.2 %

Native Americans had the highest percentage of those living in poverty at 24.2 percent in 2019, according to KFF.

this is an icon default
17 %

17% of children from all backgrounds live in poverty, compared to 32% for Black or African Americans and 31% for Native Americans, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Racial equity and homelessness are inextricably linked. If we do not have affordable housing, safe and decent places to live, jobs that pay a living wage, access to quality health care, transportation and education then we will continue to see people of color disproportionately affected by homelessness.

The majority of people experiencing homelessness are white. However, the percentage of African Americans who are homeless is twice as high as their share of the general population. If we do not address racism and the root causes of homelessness, then we will continue to see people of color disproportionately affected by homelessness.

Advocating for Racial Equity

It is necessary to advocate for Racial Equity in Homeless Service Provision, organizational management, and advocacy, in order to help people of color out of homelessness. In addition to mitigating long-term effects of structural racism, the solutions recognized as critical in combating homelessness – job training, affordable housing, services, among others– would no longer be confronted with the additional barriers of structural racism.


Advocacy and Recommendations

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has started awarding points for addressing racial disparities in the most recent Continuum of Care (CoC) funding application. In order to continue the plight for racial justice in homelessness, HUD should increase Bonus points in NOFA for Racial Equity and mandate Racial Equity training in order to qualify for CoC funds. Furthermore, a non-biased, science based prioritization tool needs to be implemented in order to assess vulnerability needs. Finally, the state can create a pathway to homeownership for people of color via the Housing Choice Voucher Program.