Tomorrow, I will participate in an exciting online kickoff event for the Bring America Home Now campaign, sponsored by the National Coalition for the Homeless. NOW is a proud partner organization, and we’re committed to building a movement to increase awareness and propose substantial policies and legislation to end homelessness. 

The growing homelessness crisis in the United States has long been impacted by our deep-seeded structural inequities, and this has been further aggravated by the recent economic downturn with COVID-19. 

Why do these inequities continue to exist and what can we do to make progress towards racial and economic justice, when it comes to homelessness? 

We know that people of color–particularly Black Americans and Native Americans–experience homelessness at dramatically higher rates than their white peers, even when compared to the percentage of those living in poverty, due to housing discrimination and racist systems. 

We also know that women are a group disproportionately affected by homelessness, due to the impacts of domestic and sexual violence. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 20-50 percent of all homeless women and children become homeless due to fleeing domestic violence. As the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty explains, some survivors of domestic violence are made to suffer even further by systemic discrimination in finding new housing and a lack of affordable housing and housing assistance. 

The continuing gender and racial inequities in our country compound this crisis in our health care system too and puts women – and especially women of color – in constant danger of being one crisis away from experiencing homelessness. Doctors report that homeless women are their most vulnerable patients. Nearly three out of four homeless individuals have at least one unmet health need, such as prescription drugs, dental care, vision, mental health, and surgical.  Homeless women lack preventive care, pre-and postnatal care, mammograms, and Pap tests, and chronic stress about these conditions can lead to other health challenges such as hypertension, heart attacks, asthma, and chronic pain. 

Homelessness is a feminist issue with many sides, and it requires diverse perspectives to come up with comprehensive solutions.  I’m excited to bring NOW’s strength and energy to this critical coalition and hope you will join in our efforts.