March 1, 2019

The Interfaith Council of Alameda County is making plans to convene a meeting of religious and political leaders to address the housing crisis in the Bay Area. I have been asked for a statement for the participants to sign. Here is a draft of the statement. I would appreciate your input.

Peace,

Jim H.

Housing in the Bay Area
A Call to Action in a Time of Crisis

The poet Maya Angelou puts it beautifully. The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.

The author Laura Ingalls Wilder puts it succinctly. Home is the nicest word there is.

The writer Matthew Desmond, in his disturbing study Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, puts it practically. America is supposed to be a place where you can better yourself, your family and your community. But this is only possible if you have a stable home.

Our faith traditions agree. Homes matter. Housing is an essential human right. A safe place to call home is essential if human beings are to thrive. Homelessness is a grave injustice, a threat to the well-being of human lives and human communities. To deprive a person of housing is both a physical and spiritual assault.

There is a housing crisis in the Bay Area. On May 3, 2018 the San Jose Mercury News reported, The same story is playing out, over and over; people are flocking tothe Bay Area for high-skilled, highly paid jobs while cashiers, teachers and construction workers are, increasingly, saying goodbye to a place they can no longer afford.

On September 21, 2018 the same paper reported, The Bay Area’s soaring housing costs are pushing out low-income families of color at a greater rate than their white counterparts, according to a new study that highlights how the region’s chronic affordability crisis is exacerbating racial disparities and creating new pockets of segregation.

A study titled Homelessness in the Bay Area: Solving the problem of homelessness is arguably our region’s greatest challenge published in October of 2017 by the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) begins, The Bay Area has one of the largest and least sheltered homeless populations in the country. Although this is one of the most prosperous regions in the world, every night thousands of people sleep on our street. It is deeply dehumanizing to live on the street, and it’s deeply disheartening for everyone to live amid such despair. The social compact that undergirds the function of our cities has been broken.

We, the undersigned religious and political leaders, are committed to ending this crisis. We promise to see to it that sufficient amounts of affordable housing, especially housing affordable to those with exceedingly low incomes, are built. We commit to finding ways to keep people safe and sheltered until the needed housing is available.

We pledge to restore the social compact that undergirds our cities, a compact which promises that no person will be without food, shelter, medical care, and opportunities to learn and to thrive. The restoration of this covenant is matter of economic necessity, political will and spiritual resolve.