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How COVID-19 and Housing Insecurity are Impacting Communities of Color

By: Ilaf Esuf
June 23, 2021

71% of our 2-1-1 callers impacted by COVID-19 and housing insecurity are communities of color. Yes, a roof above our head will shelter us from the rain, but it also promises so much more. Housing provides a foundation and the ability to plan ahead. Housing (or the lack thereof) is an inescapable topic that is top of mind for many Bay Area residents—especially communities of color. We’ve seen this issue make its way into all of our work, whether its community members looking for rental relief through our SparkPoint Centers, supporting residents in accessing tax credits to pay for housing, or informing renters of their rights through 2-1-1 .

2-1-1 is a service that connects Bay Area residents with a variety of health and human service programs in their local community. The fully confidential service is available at all hours in over 150 languages both online and by phone. Callers may be connected to a shelter for the night or a supportive housing program, they could access rental assistance to remain housed, or they could be connected to other benefits like a food pantry, freeing up money for housing expenses they wouldn’t be able to cover otherwise.

Of roughly 85,000 calls last year (a 200%+ increase in calls compared to 2019) from community members impacted by the pandemic, 10% referenced housing concerns. This includes:

  • rent payment assistance
  • homelessness/shelter/motel vouchers
  • utility payment assistance
  • landlord/renters rights/conflict calls

What comes as a disappointment, but not as a shock, is that 71% of those calling about housing-related issues were people of color. Countless callers have expressed concerns about rent payments and looming evictions, prompting our agents to proactively inform callers of their rights as tenants in anticipation of potential evictions. These are the same communities that are likely to be disproportionately impacted by the end of the eviction moratorium, updated to expire on October 1st, based on the recent extension through AB832. Should these communities face eviction, they will lose more than a house—they risk losing their foundation to build a future.

While we work to reform and create systems that promote opportunities for communities of color, it is clear that our Bay Area residents are facing very immediate threats to their foundation that require our attention today. Housing our communities is crucial to building a brighter future.


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United Way Bay Area owns and operates 2-1-1 services in 6 counties: San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Marin, and Napa counties. Other counties may provide their own 2-1-1 services.

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