CSH to Advance Racial Equity and Access to Housing with Wells Fargo Foundation Support

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Projects in CA, MN, NJ, and MD are working to create resilient communities with equal access to housing and services.

The economic fallout caused by COVID-19 has only exacerbated a long history of systemic inequality, loss of wealth, and housing instability particularly during times of economic distress. - Eileen Fitzgerald, Wells Fargo

CSH (Corporation for Supportive Housing) today announced an innovative effort to develop and implement systemic solutions to address the long-term impacts of COVID-19 and racial inequities in five communities across the US where vulnerable individuals and families have been marginalized. CSH’s initiative has received support with a grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation.

“We are excited to overlay our Racial Disparities and Disproportionality Index (RDDI) with local community-based administrative data to examine how highly impacted populations are accessing COVID-19 testing and the relationship between health and housing status, including crisis short term shelter,” notes Deborah De Santis, CSH President and CEO. She continues, “CSH is committed to applying a racial equity lens to permanent housing solutions, and we are thankful to the Wells Fargo Foundation for supporting this critical work.”

The Wells Fargo Foundation is providing $500,000 to support planning grants paired with CSH’s technical assistance to begin addressing the current crisis. Their support will also foster longer-term change that shifts communities away from triage, crisis, and institutionalization toward prevention, health, and equity.

“Home is a sanctuary, and having a safe and affordable place to call home is the foundation for health, wellness, dignity and economic opportunity,” said Eileen Fitzgerald, head of housing affordability philanthropy with Wells Fargo. “The economic fallout caused by COVID-19 has only exacerbated a long history of systemic inequality, loss of wealth, and housing instability particularly during times of economic distress. We’re pleased to support CSH and these five communities to advance racial equity and access to housing with transformative solutions to enable individuals, families, and communities to thrive.”

All five communities—Hudson County, NJ; Minneapolis, MN; Montgomery County, MD; San Diego, CA; and San Francisco, CA—will be using the RDDI to guide their work. Below are brief descriptions of their efforts:

Location: Hudson County, NJ
Focus: The initiative will engage county leadership around Hudson County’s existing Frequent Users System Engagement (FUSE*) initiative. Specifically, we will expand the effort to include Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) to design and tailor Medicaid Services to high needs and underserved populations. Since the project’s launch, the county has explored expanding across multiple systems beyond MCOs.

Location: Minneapolis
Focus: The initiative will engage county and city leadership, with a focus on public housing, public schools, juvenile justice and child protection services. Efforts will involve families, youth, and children who have experienced direct interactions with these systems.

Location: Montgomery County, MD
Focus: The initiative will engage the Racial Equity Working Group of the Montgomery County Interagency Commission on Homelessness to explore the overlap between homelessness and the child welfare, behavioral health, and justice sectors, and how racial groups are represented within these systems.

Location: San Diego
Focus: The initiative will engage San Diego Continuum of Care leadership to examine the racial disproportionality of individuals and families that flow into institutional settings and the homeless system to drive policy changes.

Location: San Francisco
Focus: The initiative will augment and support work being done under the MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge by fostering engagement and stronger planning coordination between the justice, public health, and housing systems in order to provide better housing opportunities for justice-involved people.

An exciting aspect of this program is the opportunity to infuse funding and support in efforts already underway, as in San Diego with the Continuum of Care’s Ad Hoc Committee on Addressing Homelessness Among Black San Diegans. “The work of the RDDI is critical for understanding what is happening in other systems that flow into homelessness and will be an important analytical tool with the Ad Hoc Committee's work," said Pastor Rolland Slade, a San Diego Continuum of Care Board Member and Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee. “We are hoping that the data can help drive some of the recommendations of the committee and help illuminate the voices and institutional challenges Black people face when it comes to housing instability and homelessness.”

Similarly, in Montgomery County, the Wells Fargo Foundation’s resources are aligned with the county’s plan to end homelessness. “The county is committed to ending homelessness,” said Amanda Harris, Chief of Services to End and Prevent Homelessness at the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services. “While we are proud of our work that has led to dramatic reductions in homelessness, we recognize that in order to permanently end homelessness, we must focus on the root causes that contribute to housing crises. The significant racial disparities that exist within our county’s systems have only been exacerbated by COVID-19. CSH’s partnership in helping us examine racial disparities across systems is a critical step in identifying and advancing solutions to address these disparities.”

This grant was launched in response to the COVID-19 crisis and will continue through August 2021. CSH and the Wells Fargo Foundation intend to showcase the efforts of these five communities as examples for other communities embarking on similar work throughout the country.

About the Racial Disparities and Disproportionality Index (RDDI)
CSH developed a Racial Disparities and Disproportionality Index (RDDI), which looks at 16 unique systems and measures whether a racial and/or ethnic group’s representation in a particular public system is proportionate to, over, or below their representation in the overall population (proportionality). It also allows for the examination of systematic differences between groups and geographies (disparities). Disaggregating data by race and ethnicity helps to call attention to racial trends, disparities, and inequities masked by aggregated data, allowing for improved accountability in programming and policymaking. In all five communities, CSH is utilizing the RDDI to generate robust data on the racial gap within systems locally. Leveraging the results from this analysis, we are working alongside community-led efforts to help communities better allocate public resources, so the most disadvantaged populations receive adequate access to the services they need.

*About FUSE
CSH FUSE (Frequent Users Systems Engagement) is a proven model identifying frequent users of jails, shelters, hospitals and/or other crisis public services and then improving their lives through supportive housing. Supportive housing is an evidence-based solution that leads to better health and other good outcomes for people who are homeless and disabled. Tenants are provided affordable housing with wraparound support services, which stabilizes their lives and significantly reduces returns to jail and homelessness, reliance on emergency health services, and improves the overall quality of life.

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