CARES of NY, Inc. Blog
Racial Justice & Homelessness
Since the call to action in the Summer of 2020, CARES has committed financial and staff resources to implement racial justice and equity initiatives for the agency and the communities we serve. Through its Regional Racial Justice Advisory Committee, CARES is working with eleven Continuums of Care throughout New York State to establish racial justice practices and systemic changes that ensure equitable housing outcomes for all.
Honoring Women's History Month 2021
March 2021 Post
Mom 4 Housing
In honor of Women’s History Month, CARES is highlighting Moms 4 Housing, a group of Black mothers from Oakland, California that advocate for safe, affordable housing for all mothers and their children. The four moms, Dominique Walker, Misty Cross, Carroll Fiffe, and Tolani King, effectively brought national attention to the issues surrounding affordable housing and homelessness in California’s Bay Area.
Media outlets across the country have drawn attention to the extreme housing crisis present in the Bay Area. Oakland is not exempt from that crisis, with a higher homeless rate than San Francisco. Black Oakland residents experience homelessness at a higher rate than their White counterparts due to social issues such as gentrification and housing speculation by big real estate corporations present in the Bay Area. Housing speculation has become an issue that directly correlates to high housing costs in Oakland and makes it difficult for community residents to purchase their homes or find affordable leases. Housing speculation in Oakland consists of big real estate corporations purchasing homes at a very low cost, often after the previous owners’ foreclosure. The real estate corporations then wait to sell the homes to make a larger profit as housing costs rise. In California, housing speculation is a common practice that favors investments for corporate entities at the cost of resident investment and community ownership.
At the beginning of their movement, Moms 4 Housing noted there are four vacant homes in Oakland for everyone one person experiencing homelessness. With this in mind, the group of mothers entered and occupied a home that had been vacant for two years located on Magnolia Street in Oakland and called it “Mom’s House.” The house was owned by a major real estate corporation titled Wedgewood that intended to flip the home for a higher price than their original purchase at a foreclosure auction. The Moms saw the reclamation of the house on Magnolia Street as a way battle the speculation and gentrification caused by corporate ownership of family homes. The Moms wanted to draw attention to all the corporations purchasing family homes while Oakland residents struggled to find safe, affordable shelter. For two months, the mothers and their children lived in the house on Magnolia Street while repairing damages to the home, fitting it with home amenities, and paying the electricity bills. The mothers received support from neighbors and the community as they claimed a right to stay in the home owned by Wedgewood, a corporation. They argued, “No one should be homeless when homes are sitting empty. Housing is a human right. The Moms for Housing are uniting mothers, neighbors and friends to reclaim housing for the Oakland community from the big banks and real estate speculators.”
After two months, a forced eviction on behalf of Wedgewood, and national media attention, the mothers negotiated for the house to be sold to the Oakland Community Land Trust. As an organization that strives for resident-owned communities, Oakland Community Land Trust acquires homes from big banks and real estate speculators, like Wedgewood, to sell back or lease to community members at a low, affordable cost. Through direct action organizing, the Moms brought nationwide attention to corporate-owned family homes and inspired other activists to fight for the right to housing in their own communities.
Honoring Black History Month 2021
February 29, 2021 Post
This week, CARES is highlighting an activist, social entrepreneur, and policy analyst whose work within the homeless response system has led many Continuums of Care bring equity and racial justice into their work. With over ten years of experience and as the Executive Director of the National Innovation Service, Marc Dones identifies and examines how to build equitable systems change. In their work, Dones looks at ways in which systems can be reevaluated and redesigned to produce equitable and just solutions. Additionally, they stress the importance of centering the voices and expertise of those closest to the problem. Through Supporting Partnerships for Anti-Racist Communities (SPARC), Dones effectively led a team that analyzed the systemic racism that is present within the homeless response system.
SPARC is a groundbreaking initiative from the Center for Social Innovation and produced the first report that used quantitative and qualitative data to identify how structural racism and homelessness are connected. This report included the voices of BIPOC with lived experience through interviews and focus groups. SPARC was launched in 2016 as a response to the fact that Black and African Americans are 13% of the U.S. Census population but represent 40% of the homeless population in HMIS. The initiative focused on identifying factors that caused the overrepresentation and experiences within the homeless system. Dones and the SPARC team focused on gathering the expertise and listening to BIPOC experiencing homelessness and identified major factors that contribute to inequities within the homeless system. Paired together, the quantitative and qualitative data enabled Dones to provide systems change and policy recommendations for Continuums across the country.
Marc Dones emphasizes that “only by engaging with the people who are most impacted are we able to really root what we’re saying in the reality and a context that allows people to be maximally responsive.” As their work shows, the answer to ending and preventing homelessness is collaboration from all levels of the system. Their work reflects the effectiveness of bringing those with lived expertise into the conversation and ensuring that all voices are heard. Centering the voices of BIPOC with lived experience allows for accountability to policies and practices and establishes a method of evaluating our systems for equitable results.