A man called in and was incredulous as to how descendants of slave masters could feel anything but shame. He told of the shame he felt having discovered that he shared that heritage. He asked for her guidance, in how he should deal with this.
Biser shared that she had discovered that not only was she descended from a specific slave owner; the man she was descended of had a role in the slave trade!
Then she drove this point home: There is nothing we can do about the past. Our ancestors, good, bad or in between are gone. There is something we can do about the present and the future, and there we must act.
I find this tremendously edifying regarding the fight to end the modern homelessness crisis. We can and should ask how our country so colossally failed our citizens, that we allowed the modern homelessness crisis to happen. We can and should help individuals discover how they themselves became homeless. We must reckon with the fact that each one of us had a role to play in perpetuating, if not creating this crisis. However, this dwelling in the past is of utility only insofar as it helps all of us learn from it.
The main question we need to ask, again, as a society and as individuals, is what do we do now? What do the facts on the ground tell us about what will end the modern homelessness crisis, and make homelessness rare, brief and nonrecurring in our community. Fortunately, we have evidence based practices to answer that question. We know diversion works, we know coordinated access and assessment work, we know Housing First works, and we know that there is no substitute for a unified effective homeless response system, where we all share our data with each other and with the public.
This is why, about one year ago we embarked on an open-ended journey to rectify this ill. With the support of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas’ Unite Dallas Relief Fund, and in concert with other communities across the nation, we embarked on SPARC. This program, Supporting Partnerships for Anti-Racist Communities, led by the Center for Social Innovation, has helped all of us begin to come to terms with what we need to do, as well as act on it.
Indeed, because the numbers show us how important an issue this is, we devoted the seventh of our seven goals in the CoC Strategic Work Plan to this issue. We recognize that unless we, as a community and as individuals, face this issue of overrepresentation of African Americans in homelessness, we will never end homelessness.
We encourage you to review this goal in whole in our CoC Strategic Work Plan. And again, don't just use this as an interesting learning exercise; figure out what aspect of this work you can get involved with, so you can become part of the solution. We all have much work ahead of us.