People who identify as Black made up just 12 percent of the total U.S. population but comprised 37 percent of all people experiencing homelessness. The number of people experiencing homelessness who identified as Hispanic or Latino increased by eight percent between 2020 and 2022. This reflects a considerable increase in the number of people who identify as Hispanic and were experiencing unsheltered homelessness, which increased by 16 percent (8,513 people) between 2020 and 2022.

With homelessness in an unprecedented national spotlight, it is important not to forget the tremendous inequities in who experiences it and in how resources are distributed. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in 2019 African Americans accounted for 40 percent of all people experiencing homelessness, despite being just 13 percent of the U.S. population. People identifying as Hispanic or Latino, Indigenous people, and other minoritized racial and ethnic groups experience similar overrepresentation, according to national and community-level data. These groups are also more likely to experience longer episodes of homelessness, yet receive fewer housing subsidies through government-funded housing programs. The data is even more disparaging in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which disproportionately inflicts communities of color. The factors contributing to these disparities are not always clear and vary from community to community, but HUD and other decision makers across the country are acknowledging the inequity in the homeless response system and are adopting new, innovative, and racially -equitable approaches to solving homelessness. 

Innovation In Racial Equity Technical Assistance

Through HUD’s Coordinated Entry Racial Equity Initiative, communities are taking deliberate action to identify root causes of racial inequity and implement systemic changes to reverse the disparate treatment of Black, Brown, Indigenous and People of Color within their local homeless response system. Led by The Cloudburst Group, the Equity Initiative was designed to equip communities with the knowledge, tools, and strategies necessary to combat racial disparities and establish equity in the provision of homeless services. This year, the Equity Initiative provided the nine communities of its second cohort foundational knowledge about racism and inequity, coupled with 12 months of intensive technical assistance from a multi-disciplinary team of trained coaches.

The Equity Initiative began with foundational equity workshops to provide participants with a baseline understanding of the history of racism and inequity in the United States as related to homelessness and the residual impacts that racism has imposed in communities of color. These interactive sessions grounded the participants in the reality of systemic racism and the ways that homeless response systems are rife with bias, discriminatory practices, and inequitable distribution of resources. 

Following the foundational workshops, the Cohort 2 communities were brought together each month during virtual Knowledge Bite collective learning sessions that covered an array of topics including centering people with the lived experience of homelessness, advancing data equity, and implementing a qualitative approach to the collection and use of homeless data. Communities also attended monthly Community Cohort calls in which they had the opportunity to share with one another the successes, challenges, and best practices they have discovered through their efforts to develop and implement racial equity action plans in their respective homeless response systems. These group sessions promoted a cross-pollination of knowledge, a cultural shift in perspectives, and group accountability amongst the participating communities. Between Knowledge Bite and Community Cohort Call sessions, communities received direct technical assistance from their assigned team of coaches which included tailored support and guidance in the realms of data collection and analysis, process and power mapping, core team development, racial equity action planning and implementation, and strategies for sustainability. 

Equipped with foundational equity knowledge and the support of the coaching teams, the Cohort 2 communities set about establishing their core team, a diverse group of stakeholders invested in ending local homelessness that is representative of the community, and inclusive of Black, Brown, Indigenous and people of color as well as persons with the lived experience and expertise of homelessness. Core teams took on the painstaking work of carefully analyzing their local homeless data and identifying disparities in outcomes for certain segments of the homeless population. The core teams in turn used the data to inform community equity goals and the development of action plans to produce more equitable outcomes for groups adversely impacted by racial inequity within the homeless response system, taking into account the unique factors that influence outcomes locally.

Sustainability and the Ongoing Quest for Racial Equity 

The primary coaching phase of Cohort 2 of the Equity Initiative recently came to an end. Communities will continue to fine tune their racial equity action plans over time as they monitor their progress with implementation and analyze whether their plans are producing the intended outcomes. Equity Initiative coaches will now shift to the after-action phase of the Initiative in which they will continue to develop technical assistance tools, products, and resources for communities across the country to use as they work to uplift racial equity. As the quest for racial equity continues, Cloudburst is committed to remaining at the forefront of this challenging but necessary work and will continue to be an advocate and partner for change. 


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