Many communities across America are finding it difficult to locate available apartments for homeless services clients participating in the Emergency Housing Voucher (EHV) program, a temporary federal measure created in response to the pandemic.

Earlier this year, when the Alliance convened a series of focus groups consisting of mostly Continuum of Care (CoC) representatives, it was clear to everyone that the nation’s affordable housing crisis was a significant source of the problem. However, the subsequently published report (Using EHVs to Get People Housed) highlighted another elephant in the room that many found difficult to untangle from other issues and fully tackle—the impact of race/ethnicity on a client’s housing opportunities.

Encountering Two Forms of Racism

When asked about barriers to getting people housed, some of the Alliance’s focus groups mentioned issues rooted in structural racism. Public policies and practices limited where and whether their clients with EHVs could find housing. Cited examples included redlining and zoning ordinances (preventing the erection of multi-family units), the underfunding of government programs that help build and support affordable housing, and immigration policies that prevent people from accessing public benefits (including housing programs).

But not all problems were structural. Parts of the conversation steered toward individual forms of racism. People administering EHV programs encountered landlords who simply refuse to rent to their clients. Landlords cite race-neutral reasons, such as the potential tenant’s justice system involvement, history of eviction, or the landlord’s own reluctance to participate in government housing programs. However, are these always the real reasons? Or, for some landlords, are these convenient excuses (or pretexts) for denying someone due to their race or ethnicity?

Read the full article about racism and homelessness by Joy Moses at National Alliance to End Homelessness.