In April 2018, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) launched the Ad Hoc Committee on Black People Experiencing Homelessness. The Committee’s recently released final report —coupled with new data tools from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the National Alliance to End Homelessness —provides a strong roadmap for communities interested in addressing racial disparities.
LAHSA established the ad hoc committee to:
- examine the factors contributing to the overrepresentation of Black people among the population experiencing homelessness,
- identify opportunities to increase racial equity within the homeless service delivery system, and
- develop recommendations to more effectively meet the needs of Black people experiencing homelessness.
To guide its work, the committee adopted the use of a racial equity toolkit, created in 2008 by the Seattle Office for Civil Rights’ Race and Social Justice Team . The process was designed to “guide, inform, and assess how policies, programs, and budgetary decisions burden and/or benefit Black people experiencing homelessness.”
The toolkit includes the following process steps, described more fully in Appendix V on page 100 of the report:
Step 1: Set Outcomes: Set key community outcomes for racial equity to guide analysis.
Step 2: Involve Stakeholders and Analyze Data: Gather information from community and staff on how the issue benefits or burdens community in terms of racial equity.
Step 3: Determine Benefit and/or Burden: Analyze issue for impacts and alignment with racial equity outcomes.
Step 4: Advance Opportunity or Minimize Harm: Develop strategies to create greater racial equity or minimize unintended consequences.
Step 5: Evaluate, Raise Awareness, Be accountable: Track impacts on community of color over time. Continue to communicate with and involve stakeholders. Document progress and unresolved issues.
Step 6: Report Back: Share information learned from analysis, strategies developed, and results of implementation over time.
According to LAHSA, using the toolkit promotes racial equity by:
- Listening to the voices of those most impacted—people with lived experience of homelessness, as well as those directly serving them—to understand how policies, programs, and services within the homeless service delivery system and other intersecting systems benefit or burden Black people experiencing homelessness;
- Raising awareness of racial justice issues for those providing services and community members;
- Working across governmental systems, with other institutions, and with community members to align strategies to eliminate racial disparities impacting Black people experiencing homelessness; and
- Evaluating progress over time and demonstrating a commitment to share results with community members.