Dear Built for Zero Leaders,
You are, we hope, reckoning with this moment and how to respond to the latest in a long line of racist killings in America — George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor. Each of these Americans was murdered. We stand with those who say so plainly, and we stand with Black people.
We have little to add to the words of the leaders who have already spoken out in our field, except to urge you to read them. Amanda Andere’s statement is an important starting point. But if we’re really listening, then we need to take action, and to let ourselves and our work be transformed by the call of this moment.
Racism can be an eruption or a slow burn — the sustained denial of rights over time, or the sudden theft of life itself. Or both, as with the perverse reality that Black people are both more likely to endure homelessness and to be confronted by police. (This, in the midst of a global pandemic that has taken Black lives more than twice as often as White lives.)
Our work is not disconnected from the protests currently filling our streets.
Built for Zero is about taking shared accountability for the end of homelessness. That’s why we measure, and report our numbers, and take data so seriously. As we go forward, Built for Zero must also be about taking shared accountability for racial equity in our local homelessness response systems, and the upstream systems that plunge people into them.
This year, your participation in Built for Zero will involve helping us work out a measurement framework for making racial inequity visible in our homeless response systems, month over month. (Many of you have already weighed in.) Together, we will deepen your work on listening to people of color experiencing homelessness in our systems, and tack upstream to find ways to reduce the number of people who enter those systems in the first place. We will work together to map out and understand the ways in which the agencies and institutions in which we work can and do reproduce racism. And above all, we will support each other to use the same skills and tools that are helping drive reductions in chronic and veteran homelessness to hold ourselves accountable for an equitable response to homelessness in our communities.
We will be doing, and learning to do, these things alongside you.
Dismantling racism is shared work — it is solidarity work — and this is each of our urgent portion to do.
Jake and Beth
Co-Directors of Built for Zero