With racial justice front and center—and the cornerstone to effective governance—the new Biden-Harris administration has an opportunity in its first 100 days to address homelessness with sweeping and impactful changes centered in equity. With the moratorium on evictions coming to an end, there is no time to wait.
- Reaffirm the position of “Housing First” and ensure a right to safe and stable housing for our residents experiencing homelessness. Broaden access and homeless services for those living with others due to economic hardship (i.e., doubled-up). With rent-burdened households and landlords seeking back payments, provide bailouts to landlords and forgiveness for renters to support households staying where they are. Strengthen the financial footing of households through extended unemployment benefits and flexible emergency funds for households in crisis. With an eye toward the growing economic disparities through stagnant wages and underemployment, build more affordable housing for households making less than 30% of the area median income (AMI).
- Address the health needs of people experiencing homelessness, especially people of color disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. As a social determinant of health, housing stability should be included in any health care efforts. Recognize that many households are living doubled-up and increasing their risk of exposure to COVID-19. This is disproportionately impacting people of color, especially our Latinx communities and farmworkers. Develop contingencies or enhancements in case the Affordable Care Act is altered. Ensure Pandemic-EBT and other nutritional programs are equitable, and minimize restrictions and other barriers to access. Pass the growing number of bills that address the maternal health care of pregnant and postpartum people in need of stable housing.
- Direct more funding for programs and staff to support students experiencing homelessness. Only 56% of students experiencing homelessness graduate from high school on time. And that was before the virus. We need to increase funding for students experiencing homelessness through the Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program (ECHY), McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (MKV), Head Start, and other programs for students from early childhood to postsecondary, including child care. Biden and Harris can use their platform to bring visibility to a population rarely given the attention and focus needed to bring educational opportunity.
- Center racial equity in every approach. Make sure department and agency heads are leaders with strong connections to the communities they will serve. This starts with the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Provide ample funding to tribal nations. Remove the burden and stigma of “public charge.” Focus solutions to meet the needs of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. Further, the overrepresentation of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color among the LGBTQ+ community means addressing the rights of people discriminated based on sexual orientation and gender identity as part of the solution toward racial equity.
The Biden-Harris administration promoted itself as a bridge to heal a national divide. Let our nation start healing by rebuilding communities and offering compassionate solutions to our neighbors who are most underserved: people experiencing homelessness.