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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/20/18

We Need a Housing Revolution Now

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Here's an experiment: If you're not downtown as you read this, go there now and find some homeless people. They probably won't be hard to find. Now, look at their faces.

If you can't get downtown, look at their photographs online.

Now, imagine these same faces -- just the faces -- without anything to tell you that they're homeless. They're not that different than anyone else, are they? Still, you may notice some differences. There may be more signs of ill health than you would find in a random sampling.

There will definitely be more people of color.

Housing Apartheid

Homeless people are, in fact, nearly four times more likely to be African American. They are eight times as likely to be Native American.

Half a century ago, the United States committed itself to housing justice. We're not even close.

April 11, 2018 was the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act, which was designed to eliminate discrimination in housing. But signs of economic discrimination in housing are everywhere: in Black communities devastated by foreclosure, a "highly racialized" process, in the continued "redlining" of Black neighborhoods, in the long-term loss of Black wealth, in the higher lending rates charged to African-American and Hispanic home buyers...

...and in the faces of the homeless.

The Homeless Are Not "Other"

Look again at the faces of homeless men and women. They are the victims of injustice. Their homelessness is a textbook example of structural violence; Johan Galtung wrote a seminal paper on this subject in 1969.

For some, homelessness is a long-term problem. For others, it's a few days or weeks couch-surfing or sleeping in a car.

Either way, homeless people are not the "other." In San Francisco, for example, 70 percent of the homeless population had housing in the city within the last three years.

Homelessness is, in most cases, inextricably linked to the accelerating housing problems that affect all Americans: soaring rents, foreclosures and evictions. Economic inequality, and the lack of adequate facilities for the structurally and psychiatrically disabled.

Most Americans will experience at least one year of poverty in their adult lives.

Housing is a National Emergency

The housing emergency in this country affects many of us. Nearly half of all renters -- 47 percent -- are "burdened," which means they're paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing. 9.8 million renters are spending between 30 and 50 percent of their income on rent. 11 million renters pay more than 50 percent.

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Host of 'The Breakdown,' Writer, and Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

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