Want to Eliminate Black Homelessness? Do Something.

A new report shows that African-Americans are 7 times more likely than whites to end up without homes. Experts tell BET.com it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Posted: 03/06/2012 04:45 PM EST

Black families are seven times more likely than whites to end up homeless, according to new research, but sources say the Black community can make a difference.

The report, "Intergenerational Disparities Experienced by Homeless Black Families," released by the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness found that in 2010, one out of every 141 Black family members stayed in a homeless shelter, a rate more than quadruple that of white family members. Additionally, in the same year, nearly one-quarter (23.3%) of Black families lived in poverty, three times the rate of white families.

Experts say prejudice and barriers lead to higher rates of poverty and unemployment, lower educational attainment and ultimately homelessness for Blacks, but numbers can be reversed.

“Homelessness is a poverty issue and poverty in the United States is disproportionately a Black issue,” Diana Scholl, spokesperson for the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness tells BET.com.” If you look at the numbers, the people who make more money are the people who go to college and attain higher education. The first thing we have to look at is why educational opportunities are so unequal in this country. “

In 2009 only 14.3 percent of Blacks were enrolled in a degree-granting institution, in comparison to 62.3 percent of whites, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

In 2009, President Obama created the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) to help alleviate homelessness. The $1.5 billion program funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) emphasizes re-housing and prevention strategies, but homeless organizations say more needs to be done.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness claims that the federal government needs to significantly expand housing programs, particularly the Section 8 Housing Voucher Program and provide links to mental health counseling, child development and employment training.

However, Scholl says, the government aren’t the only people who can make a difference.

 “In order to alleviate homelessness among African-Americans, we need to be aware of what’s going on. People don’t want to talk about race,” she says. “If you go to these 37-state homeless shelters, you’ll see that it’s mainly Black faces, Black children, but people aren’t talking about that.”

Scholl says that people, and in particular Black communities, need to start having conversations and taking issue with the number of Blacks in shelters. Next they need to contact the people they put in office.

In addition to alerting your elected officials of the stark numbers of African-Americans in shelters, it’s also important to invest through time, energy and money in poverty-stricken communities. Money donated to the local community center, suits donated for job interviews or hours spent tutoring in urban neighborhoods can help move Blacks off the street.

“Everyone needs to have the same opportunities,” Scholl says.    

For  more ideas on how to end homelessness in your community visit the National Alliance to End Homelessness here.

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(Photo: JACQUES DEMARTHON/AFP/Getty Images)

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