Use Targeted Universalism as a Policy Framework

An alternate approach to addressing homelessness is acknowledging the complex role that race plays in housing displacement, and designing a targeted universal approach to addressing the problem. Unlike race-neutral universal methods, a targeted universal approach considers the impact of racism when addressing an aggregate problem (such as homelessness) and makes specific goals based on the needs of different subpopulations.

We already use targeted approaches to address issues of homelessness (e.g., youth homelessness, family homelessness, and veteran homelessness); however, our strategies do not acknowledge the various ways that race and racism interact within targeted subpopulations. The Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA) has started the work of using targeting universalism as a policy framework with their 2018 Report on Black People Experiencing Homelessness. The report identifies root issues that are causing Black people to become homelessness in Los Angeles and provides 67 recommendations to address Black homelessness in the region. While LAHSA’s report is strong, time will tell if the county fully commits to the report’s extensive recommendations. All agencies and organizations should take a targeted universal approach to address homelessness, and lead government agencies must follow through with the process of actualizing those recommendations. Doing so would help to achieve concrete goals in remedying racial disparities in homelessness.

Centering Black People with Lived Experience

In Los Angeles County, Black men alone make up 22% of the homeless population in the county, despite only representing 4% of the county’s general population. However, despite being one of the largest homeless populations, Black men (let alone Black men with lived experience of homeless) are rarely in leadership positions in organizations and agencies dedicated to addressing homelessness. Such trends exist in LA County and most cities and counties across the U.S.

The absence of Black men with lived experience of homelessness in leadership positions means that CoCs are creating programs and policies to address homelessness while lacking profound influence from the single most impacted population. Black men, generally, and Black men with lived experience of homelessness specifically, must be centered in addressing homelessness.

Read the full article about centering Black people with lived experience by Earl J. Edwards and Reba A. Stevens at The National Alliance to End Homelessness.