Homelessness disproportionately impacts people of color, particularly those in Black/African American communities. In Connecticut, Black/African-Americans account for over 30% of people experiencing homelessness, but only represent about 10% of CT’s general population.

Data on Race and Equity

Recent data on COVID-19 also indicate racial disparities exist. Black/African-Americans account for around 20% of CT COVID-positive cases and around 15% of COVID-related deaths (ctdata.org/covid19). These disparities are influenced by several factors, including centuries of discrimination in housing, healthcare, education, and criminal justice, that have resulted in an increased likelihood of people of color living in densely populated neighborhoods, working in essential jobs where they are more at-risk, having less access to adequate healthcare, and having greater negative health outcomes.

Building Cultural Competency

Connecticut’s homeless response system serves an incredibly diverse range of people from different religious backgrounds, races and ethnicity, and across the spectrum of age and experience as well as gender and sexual preference. Because of this, it is vital that cultural competency is centered in our work where we actively maintain cultural humility and offer culturally responsive service provision. CCEH provides trainings on cultural competence, cultural humility, and cultural responsiveness. Here is a brief introduction to terminology we use:

  • Cultural humility challenges us to learn from those we work with and serve, reserve judgement, and actively bridge cultural divides.
  • Cultural competence is the knowledge and understanding of the diverse and complex needs of people from various cultural groups.
  • Cultural responsiveness is when services are framed by understanding of culture, cultural competency, and cultural humility creating a cultural responsive foundation for families and communities to be engaged and supported utilizing the strengths of their diversity and cultural dynamics.

Cultural competency is a continuum of practice that involves acknowledging cultural differences, identify gaps in treatment, and then tailoring your behavior and the services you provide to meet the needs of all groups by hearing from the groups and involving them in changes and decision-making. Culturally responsive programs and services evolve appropriately to engage families and communities in the design, delivery, and evaluation of effective and appropriate services. Think of cultural responsiveness as a tool to ensure the inclusion of various points of views and experiences. It often requires that those in a position of power take stock of their role in society and the advantages that may come with it and encourages the learning and understanding of other groups to foster respect, trust, and inclusion of that understanding in every step of decision-making.

Moving forward

To ensure the equitable treatment and safety of those experiencing homelessness, particularly those who are disparately impacted by both homelessness and COVID-19, we must advance our efforts to identify racial disparities that exist in our programs, address disparities that exist, and retool our system to prevent these disparities from perpetuating.

Training Resources

CCEH offers trainings on cultural competency. Here are some resources available:

Additional Resources

Below are ways you can CCEH in our efforts to identify and address racial disparities that effect housing, especially during the COVID crisis: