Dear Community members,
The last four months have been painful and particularly challenging for people experiencing homelessness. On the one hand, COVID-19 has totally disrupted lives and exposed the inextricable connection between housing and health. On the other hand, we continue to bear witness to the murder of black persons by some tasked with protecting all of us. There is no denying that this country has always been in crisis.
As we experience the eruption of anti-racism protests across the United States and around the world, it is essential to reflect on what brought us to this point. For Baltimore City Continuum of Care (CoC), the events unfolding over the last week around racial discrimination is a reminder that we still have a lot of work ahead of us.
We stand with those fighting for a world where Black lives are respected and dignified. We mourn and honor the memory of those who lost their lives at the hands of police. We affirm our commitment to racial equity — and addressing the issue of homelessness through a racial equity lens.
Let's face it: The overrepresentation of Black people in this nation's homeless population is no accident. It is a byproduct of historical and ongoing racism and discriminatory practices such as slavery, redlining, housing discrimination, displacements of African American individuals, predatory inclusion, and an unfair criminal justice system. Hence, embedding racial equity into housing policy and addressing homelessness through a racial equity lens cannot be seen as optional. It is with this conviction that in 2019, Baltimore City Continuum of Care decided to put racial equity at the center of its Action Plan on Homelessness. Stemming from this decision is the Action Plan’s fifth key strategy— Establishing a Race Equity Agenda, which informs and guides the work that we do.
As human beings, community members, and service providers, we must speak out against racism and injustice, listen to those who have been unheard, educate ourselves, and hold our leaders accountable. As the scholar Ibram X. Kendi reminds us, "the opposite of 'racist' isn't 'not racist.' It is 'antiracist.'" Being anti-racist involves taking action to end racism and advancing anti-racist policies. But let's be clear: Fighting against racism is not a gesture of charity but an act of justice. It is the protection of fundamental human rights: The rights to life, liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, the right to dignity, and the right to have a safe place to call home.
Let's work to together to create an equitable and just world for all.
Baltimore City Continuum of Care Board Chair