What in the world is “housing challenged”?
In discussions of the sociological fallout from COVID, I hear references to housing-challenged and housing insecure. WHAT? This is a polite way of saying that people are either worried about losing their homes or have already lost them. They’re now homeless. If they’re lucky they may be able to move in with friends or family members. Or they live in their cars. Or join the thousands of other homeless people living on the streets.
These are families who’ve been evicted from their homes because they’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own. The industries in which they work—hospitality, for instance—have completely stalled. Or no longer exist. No one knows what our communities will look like when this is all over. What industries will survive and how our lives will be changed.
Why affordable housing matters
Besides the practical matter of a home’s providing shelter from the weather, a home is really so much more than that. Housing is the key to reducing intergenerational poverty and increasing economic mobility. People thrive when there is stability, a place to come home to.
Stanford economist Raj Chetty found that children who moved to lower poverty neighborhoods saw their earnings as adults increase by approximately 31%, an increased likelihood of living in better neighborhoods as adults, and a lowered likelihood of becoming a single parent. Children living in stable, affordable homes are more likely to do well in school and have opportunities to learn outside the classroom.
Those without housing are at greater risk of contracting COVID
An estimated 7.2M more affordable housing units are needed for extremely low-income families. Even before COVID, millions of Americans lacked stable, affordable housing. The COVID crisis now has exposed our shortcomings and failures to provide adequate healthcare and housing for our communities. People living in dense, overcrowded housing or without homes at all have no way to shelter in place. As a result, they are at far greater risk of contracting the virus and other chronic illnesses.
California has a conviction moratorium, but that expires in September
Local governments and nonprofit service providers are scrambling to put in place temporary measures to help those who have been displaced by the virus, such as motels to shelter unhoused families, placing hand-washing stations in homeless encampments, and providing emergency rental assistance. This puts additional strain on the staff and budgets of local governments and nonprofits.
Eventually, scientists will develop a vaccine for COVID
But the experts are cautious about this. It’s going to take a while. Stage III trials take a long time, but they’re a critical part of part of the testing and validation process. Once the vaccine passes this marker, it will need to be manufactured and distributed globally. There’s something else that we need to consider. This virus is smart. It continues to mutate. Will the vaccine be effective for the new mutating virus?
COVID is just one pandemic that was passed on to us from animals as we invade their habitats. As our population expands into animal habitats, we are in danger of contracting another highly contagious disease that will turn into a pandemic. It’s up to us to learn from this.
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