Homelessness Is a Symptom of Racism: Interview with Jeff Olivet and Marc Dones

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“What we do not say often enough or loudly enough is that racism and homelessness are inextricably linked. Yes, racism. It is time to speak truth. It is time to call it what it is.” ~ Jeff Olivet

Please watch and share this important video interview with Jeff Olivet and Marc Dones. It’s an important conversation we need to keep front and center. If we are ever going to end homelessness, we need to address racism head on!

The first time I met Jeff Olivet was back in 2010 when we shared the stage speaking at a homeless conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I am not the best public speaker, but I can typically hold my own. Jeff’s talk on the history of homelessness completely blew me off stage.

Fast forward to 2015. Jeff and I were once again keynoting a homeless services conference. I was fully prepared for Jeff to educate the audience on the crisis of homelessness. However, when this middle-aged white man opened his presentation with the statement, “Homelessness is a symptom of racism”, he once again blew me away.

While Jeff’s talk was spot on, the subject of homelessness and racism is a difficult and painful topic. As is the nature of conversations like this, they often seem to disappear, never to be brought up again. I didn’t think it would gain traction.

The good news is I was wrong and this conversation continues to take center stage. Jeff, who is CEO of the Center for Social Innovation, and Marc Done, Associate of Equity Initiatives & Diversity, regularly speak about homelessness and racism around the country. In fact, Jeff and Marc were invited to the White House Policy Briefing on Ending Youth Homelessness this past June. Read the “transcript of their talk” here [link].

Here is a short excerpt:

“More than 40 percent of people using shelter in the U.S. each year are African American, nearly three times their portion of the general population. A 2011 study by George Carter from the Census Bureau found that even when controlling for poverty, African Americans were dramatically more likely than Whites to become homeless, and there is some evidence that they stay homeless longer. It is more than a coincidence that Black children under 5 years old are 29 times more likely than their White counterparts to end up in the shelters of New York and Philadelphia–data reported by Culhane and Metraux. The only other racial group that comes close to these rates of homelessness is Native Americans. Again, no accident.”

Marc Dones added:

“There is a deep and abiding problem inside the picture of American homelessness that unequivocally points towards our racialized and racist policy history. For the adult population, the systematic exclusion of people of color, and specifically black people, from the housing market via redlining and housing covenants functionally meant that black people were largely excluded from home ownership until roughly 1970 after the passing and partial implementation of the Fair Housing Act.”

For more information here are a few links:

Homelessness Is a Symptom of Racism

Homelessness, Racism and Social Justice

Racism and Homelessness by Jeff Olivet [PDF]


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