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Searching For a Place to Call Home

Written by Ahmad Jenkins

There is no question that one of the foundational aspects of good health is having access to a safe and affordable place to live. Especially when it comes to the two aspects of safety and affordability, both of which are becoming increasingly distant and hard to achieve in today's housing and rental markets, for many families who are already over burdened with other aspects of the rising cost of living. 

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Among the members of my own family, I would say that it is the number one stressor we deal with daily (yes, even more stressful than the upcoming statistics finals I will have to take). Families, and in particular families with young children, face many risks, which are primarily due to the unaffordable rental market which can result in them having to face eviction when they can't pay the rent, according to much of the research done on the correlation between family health and affordable housing.

Several studies have shown that eviction has a direct impact on health, resulting in an increase in hospitalization rates among children and an increase in depression and anxiety among adults. It is also important to remember that eviction is detrimental to the health and social connectedness of communities," state Katie McCabe and Scott Burris in their publication Eviction and the Necessary Conditions for Health. They go on to further highlight the racial inequalities that lie in the unaffordable housing and rental crises that has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Black tenants are not only more likely to face eviction, along with living in less affordable and lower quality housing than their white counterparts. All of this perpetuated by policy (McCabe & Burris, 2021).

For Low-income African American households as well as other marginalized ethnic groups the burden of eviction that it places on such families hardly justifies what many landlords can justify in that what they deem as a ‘justifiable’ eviction. Multi-family rental properties come to mind, in that many here in the Pacific Northwest boast, or like to boast that they have the best interest of low-income families in mind when marketing rental units to that demographic. Unbeknownst to them, which should be a common concern since we are living in systemically racist, discriminatory, and exploitatively capitalist society is the perinatal, pediatric, and adult health concerns that was mentioned earlier in this article. “After eviction, families may move frequently, live in poor-quality and or overcrowded housing, become homeless, lose social support, live in neighborhoods with few health care facilities, and experience hazardous environmental exposures, conditions associated with negative health outcomes” say Cutts et al. in Eviction and Household Health and Hardships in Families with Very Young Children. Furthermore, the frequent moving and unstable housing that follows a family’s eviction significantly increases children’s risk of behavioral and emotional problems, adolescent depression, early illicit drug abuse and teenage pregnancy (Cutts et al).

This Front Line report highlights the impact that evictions had on people during the COVID-19 pandemics and the implications that have trickled down to today. 

As the recent House Bill 2114 works its way through becoming law, It's worth noting what this particular piece of legislation will mean for low income families struggling to maintain an affordable roof over their head. If you aren't familiar with this piece of legislation the goal of it is to improve housing instability

So where do families at risk of eviction turn to ensure they are able to secure and remain in safe and affordable housing?  Most organizations that work with low income families, in social work it can be assumed are exhorted to show compassion to individual families and their diverse circumstances. By examining the situational factors that bring a particular family to the life challenges they face at any particular moment they can be guided towards or provided with the necessary services they need to help them through the challenges they are faced with. I'm able to relate this to my own experience, while I'm currently supposed to be getting rental assistance with Catholic Community Services’ Family Housing Network through two programs they offer SSVF (Supportive Services for Veteran Families) and the Shallows program which CCS claims to help keep families of veterans at risk of homelessness housed, their assistance. There were on a number of occasions instances where my family and I have been  placed in the position that the assistance we were supposed receive  never came. We are thus left to figure out how to manage paying for housing which on our own we can't afford. This was the purpose of seeking assistance with CCS to begin with. While blame can't be laid out on the organization as a whole, it's rather those working within that organization that drop the ball on providing the necessary services to their clients that actually hinder the efficacy of the service  CCS strives to do for low income communities. 

There would be repeat calls and emails that weren't returned, and upon finding out that the case manager we started the program with no longer worked there, we realized unless we advocated strongly for ourselves we would be lost in the sauce. The part of this story that stings the most is that upon getting in touch with the program manager, we felt that they didn't feel a sense of real urgency, despite the fact that while we did our part according to the program's criteria we were still faced with a 30 day pay or vacate that would soon turn into an eviction. There's a difference between claiming to do something and promoting it to a particular population as opposed to actually committing people and resources towards reaching a goal within the service you are attempting to provide. As students in our field of studies we should be mindful of the impact we potentially have in the lives of the people we are seeking to serve. Are we giving much thought to how best we can advocate for those who are in need? For myself as a student leader, this question is at the forefront of every interaction I have with my fellow students, and if you are a student senator, leader, tutor, etc; then it's a noteworthy question to reflect on in your work as well. 

 

In my experience with CCS their help  was minimal and left my family and I having to work harder to pick up that organizations slack. We’ve had to become resourceful in tracking down other resources that were available, such as assistance that my family and I were able to receive here on campus through the Student Support and Advocacy center. It was just what my family and I needed for the challenges we faced. Amongst programs, such as Men of Distinction, and New Chances, I was able to speak with Kit Do our campus' resource navigator who works to ensure that students (myself included) are able to find and utilize the resources they need. It was just the assistance that we needed at the time hold back an earlier eviction to give my family and I breathing room - despite being short lived it was nice to know that we had other places to turn to in order to find the help we needed. 

If you or a fellow student you know is currently experiencing housing insecurity of any type direct them tothe Student Support and Advocacy Center to learn more about resources available to them

Resources

Cutts, D. B., Ettinger de Cuba, S., Bovell-Ammon, A., Wellington, C., Coleman, S. M., Frank, D. A., Black, M. M., Ochoa, E., Chilton, M., Lê-Scherban, F., Heeren, T., Rateau, L. J., & Sandel, M. (2022). Eviction and household health and hardships in families with very young children. Pediatrics, 150(4). https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2022-056692 

 

Moran-McCabe, K., & Burris, S. (2021). Eviction and the necessary conditions for health. New England Journal of Medicine, 385(16), 1443–1445. https://doi.org/10.1056/nejmp2031947 

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