Housing Insecurity Hits African Americans Hard During Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic worsened an already precarious housing situation for many families across the United States. For many African Americans, their housing status was already in dire straits. The pandemic caused a lot of employers to close their doors, and 10 months after COVID-19 was declared to be a pandemic by the World Health Organization, many people still find themselves jobless and with no remaining unemployment benefits. The United States has 10 million fewer jobs than it did one year ago. Jobs in the service, restaurant, hospitality, tourism, hotel and education sectors have had the worst losses, and those jobs are disproportionately filled by women and African Americans.

One Family's Experience With Housing Insecurity

One year ago, a single father of five children had a home. They lived in Indianapolis. Their situation was paycheck-to-paycheck, but they had food on the table, clothes on their backs and a roof over their heads. One child, age 11, has a kidney disorder that requires dialysis. The dad takes his child for treatments three days a week, during his lunch break from work. He leaves his son there until the end of the work day so that he can finish his shift and earn his paycheck. The dad says everything went downhill all of a sudden. He's spent the last eight months hotel hopping in order to keep the family out of shelters. He expects that shelters would separate him and his sons from his daughters. He only received $250 per week in unemployment compensation.

What Indiana's Housing Authorities Have to Say About Housing Insecurity

Indiana's social workers and authorities with expertise in homelessness and housing insecurity say that the COVID-19 pandemic has put a lot of pressure on families. They may not be able to stay with relatives. This leaves more people with nowhere stable to live. If a family has no stable shelter, it's at risk of the Department of Human Services stepping in and removing the kids from the parent's custody. That is a huge problem. There is a risk of the whole family being broken up on a permanent basis.

Black Families Hit Hardest By Housing Insecurity

In Indiana, two-thirds of the people residing in family shelters are African American. Unemployment, the pandemic and low socioeconomic status have all played roles in the loss of stable housing. In Marion County, authorities stated that African American heads of households with multiple children have the highest eviction rates out of all demographics.

What Authorities Are Doing to Help Families

A Marion County homelessness prevention coalition received a $1.25 million grant from the Day 1 Families Fund. Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, created the fund. Even with the extra funding, all of the homeless shelters in central Indiana are at capacity. Many of the shelters in Marion County don't always have beds that are suitable for certain demographics, such as fathers with multiple children. Beds are often dedicated to certain family dynamics or structures, such as mothers with children or single individuals. That makes navigating housing options and emergency shelters a huge challenge.

How Many Homeless People Are in Marion County

As of the most recent homeless count in Marion County, 1,588 people were identified as having no home. About 54% of them identified as African American or Black. The Marion County nonprofits have set up more non-congregate shelters throughout Indianapolis and its suburbs. They're using hotels, apartment buildings and other settings for families who are at risk of COVID-19 infection and who have no stable place to stay. They authorities are hoping to find more opportunities to help families with rapid rehousing to keep them safe.

What the Dad Hopes for the Future

The dad of the child with the kidney disorder is a certified plumber. They moved to Indianapolis one year ago, leaving Chicago to seek medical care for the child. They had been staying with a relative, but their relative died in January 2020. The dad is now working as a maintenance technician in the apartment complex where the family has lived for one month. In his experience, not many people are willing to help folks like him and his kids. In his family of six, they're affected by asthma, high blood pressure, stroke, autism and other serious health problems. He wants to keep his family together, but keeping up with costs is hard. He's grateful for all the help he's received.

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