Message from Alysha Ali, MSP Director of Operations
In honor of Black History Month, Mustard Seed Project would like to highlight the various racial disparities in homelessness. Black communities have disproportionately worse outcomes in relation to housing as a result of institutional racism, with obsolete systems from decades ago still affecting us today. Dating back to as far as slavery, racial inequity has led to disproportional rates of poverty among Black Americans, with deep poverty rates as high as 10.8% today (1). As poverty has been a longstanding predictor of homelessness, it comes as no surprise that, though only representing 13% of the general population, Black Americans make up 40% of people experiencing homelessness and over 50% of homeless families with children (1).
Black Americans live in systems that function to maintain this poverty, with redlining and rental housing discrimination as lingering effects of segregation, with incarceration plaguing the Black community, and with lack of access to affordable quality healthcare. First, redlining keeps Black Americans in areas concentrated with poverty and lack of access to quality services and programs, and rental housing discrimination furthers this concentration as Black Americans are denied more leases, shown less units, and paid higher rent and deposit fees than their White counterparts (1). Additionally, in our Community Forum on February 23rd, we discuss the prison-to-homelessness pipeline and how incarceration can serve to function as a vehicle to homelessness once released from prison. There are significant problems individuals face in accessing safe and affordable housing upon exiting prison. With the overcriminalization of Black communities leading to Black Americans being incarcerated at six times the rate of their White counterparts (1), this leads to even more Black Americans being funneled into homelessness. Lastly, lack of access to healthcare to those with mental illness and/or chronic medical conditions can put those individuals at serious risk of homelessness. Around 20% of the homeless population remains chronically homeless due to mental illness and behavioral health issues (1), and medical debt is one of the leading causes of bankruptcies (2), further funneling Black Americans into homelessness.
COVID-19 only serves to highlight these racial disparities. Homeless individuals are at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19, and if infected, they are twice as likely to be hospitalized, two to four times as likely to need critical care, and two to three times more likely to die (3). In addition to racial inequity already present, COVID-19 has brought upon the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression (4). Black communities are less likely to have emergency funds in place in case their income is interrupted, leading to greater displacements of Black Americans from their homes during this pandemic. Additionally, the lack of access to healthcare not only funnels Black communities into homelessness, but has also been demonstrated to lead to worse outcomes for Black Americans infected with COVID-19. In Chicago, though only accounting for 29% of the general populations. Black Americans accounted for 60% of the deaths due to COVID-19 as of April 2020 (3).
This Black History Month, we at Mustard Seed Project reflect on how racial inequality perpetuates homelessness and the work we do every day. These few words cannot encompass the depths of racism in our society today. We invite you to reflect and do the same.
Please note our sources:
Some might ask where the name “Mustard Seed Project” originated…
“Although it is the smallest of all seeds, it grows to be the largest of all garden plants” (Matthew 13:32). Mustard Seed Project is not a religious organization, but this virtue embodies everything that we are: a small group of students seeking to make a large impact.
We differ from other homeless outreach models by following our “Hand up, not Hand-out” philosophy, we believe that in order to make a positive impact in the realm of chronic homelessness, we must do more than simple simple band-aid work. That’s why the main reason for our street outreach program is not to pass out basic necessities, but to create a presence of trust in which we can direct individuals to our Volunteer Service Navigation program. The main goal is to help individuals rise above their situation through rapport and service, with work put in by both the client and service navigator. We believe that if everyone helps in the community, we can work together to fight homelessness.
This project is filled with exceedingly dedicated members who are ready to serve and advocate for our neighbors at-risk-of or experiencing homelessness. Our team has done an amazing job mobilizing and making our communities stronger.
Below are of the wonderful efforts some of our VSN’s have accomplished this month:
This month’s community-wide event we will discuss the prison to homelessness pipeline with our special guest speaker, Curtis Howard. We are inviting advocates, homeless services providers, and concerned citizens for a lively and productive discussion. All are welcome to listen, share, and learn. Can’t wait to see you all there!
This quarter, the UCSD chapter decided to get extremely innovative in their fundraising efforts! We are so excited to announce our very first MSP Raffle Fundraiser! Proceeds will go towards our Community Relief Fund (CRF), to support those experiencing homelessness. This fund has supported our clients with rental assistance, transportation vouchers, medical assistance, and more. Tickets are $1 each! Enter by sending your contribution to the UCSD VP, Pei via Venmo (@Pei-Chen-Choo). Then fill out their google form by scanning the QR code or by clicking the button below. Move quickly! The last day to enter is Wednesday, Feb 24th! The winner(s) will be announced on Saturday, Feb 27th!
We would like to give a BIG thank you to the supporters in our communities, including Johnson & Johnson, for donating significant amounts to our Community Relief Fund and believing in our cause.
Mustard Seed Project