What the Pandemic Means for the Homeless and Housing Insecure
The COVID-19 crisis is shining a light on how critical safe and stable housing is – and how many people don’t have access to it. In our current system, not everyone is guaranteed a place to live. Too many survive in shelters, on couches, or on the street.
In the span of just a few weeks, this crisis has exposed the true scope of homelessness in our community, and the precariousness of so many families who are teetering on the brink – who are just a paycheck away. It has underscored our dependence on our immigrant community – the backbone of our service industry – along with the plight of the many minimum wage earners who are putting the good of the community ahead of their own needs in order to keep critical services operating.
Despite this, the federal stimulus funding will likely not reach our most vulnerable neighbors, and certainly not in time to meet the urgent expenses they have right now, or will incur over the months to come. This includes extremely low-income individuals who haven’t filed a tax return in the past two years, people without access to the internet, many immigrants and people whose primary language is not English.
New data is also showing the disparate impact of COVID-19 on black and brown communities. Environmental and societal inequities have led to greater incidence of chronic illness that are risk factors for contracting COVID-19. And hundreds of years of systemic racism have made it more likely that black and brown Americans work in service class jobs deemed essential, depend more on public transit, have less access to goods and services, and suffer from greater housing and food insecurity. Low-income communities in general are likely to be hit the hardest by the immediate and lingering effects of the pandemic.
We Need to Change our Systems and Policies
This crisis has highlighted the need to reorient where home falls on our spectrum of what is important. Hudson River Housing is an organization that is prepared to repair the issues that are before us, and we have the vision of where we can go together. But we can’t do it without your help.
In addition to meeting immediate health and safety of our neighbors, we need long term solutions to increase permanent affordable housing in our community, including solutions like:
- Requiring new housing developments to include a percentage of affordable units
- Supporting publicly funded programs that provide resources to create permanent housing for the homeless
- Advocating for zoning that allows for different forms of housing, such as dormitory-style units for those on limited incomes
- Strengthening the ability of local government to streamline the development process and move quickly to turn vacant properties into affordable housing
Now and in the future, we will see many more families struggling to maintain their housing as they deal with unemployment, medical bills, and savings accounts that have been depleted. This will push even more households into housing instability if we don’t act to safeguard safe, affordable housing for all.
This is something that we can do together, and it’s something we can do now.
We need continued leadership and coordination from local government that prioritizes housing as critical for maintaining healthy communities. We need community residents to raise their voices in support of affordable homes for all. We have a need to rebuild our local economy to be stronger and more equitable, and this is our opportunity to do so.
We have the power, if we act.