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Housing Kent initiative aims to mend pitfalls of local housing system

birds eye view of homes
Rachel Elaine. | Flickr | CC BY 2.0
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Rachel Elaine. | Flickr | CC BY 2.0
Housing Kent initiative aims to mend pitfalls of local housing system

The Housing Kent initiative hopes to make policy changes within the housing system that it says has "resulted in harmful racialized and inequitable outcomes to create a link between the responsibility of state and local political leaders' policy work."

Over the past year, Kent County has seen initiatives to address the housing crisis including items like new affordable apartments and additional bus stop shelters. A project by the nonprofit KConnect, Housing Kent, aims to assess the housing system as a whole, working with those who are unhoused, homeowners and everyone in between.

"Often it's easy to think of someone experiencing homelessness as the folks that are without a home that we see out there perhaps when we're driving, but there are a lot of families that are really struggling that are paycheck to paycheck and often we don’t really dedicate resources into that space," Salvador Lopez, President of KConnect said.

KConnect is a network of public and private organizations working towards equitable growth for neighbors in Kent County. In a recently debuted community plan, the group says it hopes to direct dollars from the Kent County CARES Act to on-the-ground organizations working with residents. Among other action items, the organization hopes to implement trained community coordinators in every housing organization in the area, along with diversifying the field and ensuring implicit bias training with all stakeholders.

The Housing Kent initiative also hopes to make policy changes within the system that it says has "resulted in harmful racialized and inequitable outcomes to create a link between the responsibility of state and local political leaders' policy work."

"We need a better system," Lopez said. "Looking at the root cause of the problem, the responsibility really lies on all of us. We all have a role to play."

Lopez adds the initiative is about managing, solving and dissolving barriers. To do this, he said barriers need to be brought to the forefront, many of which involve disparities against Black and Brown communities.

"The data points to one out of six African American children accessing the homeless system compared to one out of 130 white children...If a White family in Kent county makes a dollar for every dollar that a White family makes, an African American family makes about 52 cents per dollar a Latinx family makes about 60 cents per dollar, so there’s a lot of disparities with what folks are making in the work place as well," he said.

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