Link Between Homelessness and Racism

2020 homeless count results announced by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) in June yielded current evidence of the long standing and persistent racial disparity in numbers of homeless persons for Black people in Los Angeles. The 2020 count echoed conclusions from the Report and Recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee on Black People Experiencing Homelessness (December 2018) convened by LAHSA which noted that, “the persistent overrepresentation of Black people among the population experiencing homelessness is a troubling reality across the United States, and Los Angeles is no exception. Ending homelessness will require a collective commitment to dismantling racism and addressing racial disparities.” Black persons tend to show up in the homelessness population at approximately 4x their numbers in the general population and their homelessness continues to rise at higher rates than the overall homeless population.  As a result, overall homelessness increased 12% in 2020 from the previous year, while it was up 15% for Black persons.  Additionally, the Ad Hoc Committee report presents data showing that Blacks experienced twice as high rates of return to homelessness when compared with whites, even when placed into housing at equal rates. The vulnerabilities related to housing for Black persons can be explained when looking at historical housing policies by the federal government, local governments, real estate industry, and white communities. 

There is clear evidence of racist policies and actions that continue to echo in current practices, resulting in reduced access to wealth and property for Black people.

There is clear evidence of racist policies and actions that continue to echo in current practices, resulting in reduced access to wealth and property for Black people (Khoury, LA Times 7/20/20).  Recent civil rights and protest efforts have called for social justice and are triggering greater use of a racial equity lens to repair this damage because social problems such as homelessness affect all members of our community. USC has taken this opportunity to activate the Initiative to Eliminate Homelessness’ mission to contribute human capital through an educated workforce which understands the issues and is prepared to make a real difference.  As one example, In a creative collaboration between the Iovine & Young Academy and the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, doctoral social work candidates are being trained in human centered design principles and challenged to create innovative solutions to equity in the field of Black homelessness as part of their residency this summer. This is one of many efforts throughout the university that equips students to respond effectively in the fight to address homelessness in Los Angeles.