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Race's Role In The COVID-19 Pandemic
Date published: April 16, 2020
By now you have likely heard the dire reports. Chicago's Department of Public Health shows that Black Chicagoans, who are 30% of the city’s population, are contracting COVID-19 at a much higher rate than any other group, and account for a staggering 68% of the attributed deaths. This means Chicago’s Black residents are dying at a rate nearly six times that of their white neighbors.
Since the beginning of the pandemic we have seen the difficult truth that our clients, 79% of whom are African American, are most at risk. This novel coronavirus is highlighting what we know to be true from nearly four decades of work - poverty and racism are amplified in times of crisis. And the ever-present gaps in our economy and healthcare system are receiving new attention as COVID-19 related deaths within Black populations skyrocket.
That’s why one of HOW’s core values is Justice. Our work as a housing and human services organization is inextricably linked to social and racial justice. We know firsthand that racial and socioeconomic issues create huge disparities when it comes to public health, education, employment, and community investment.
Housing is fundamental to stabilizing a person’s health. This fact has never been clearer than now as we face this pandemic. For our clients, all of whom have experienced housing insecurity and homelessness, a HOW apartment offers a place of refuge during the pandemic. But simply having a home is not enough. The city’s Stay-At-Home order has drawn attention to the chasm between Chicago’s well-resourced and financially secure citizens, and those who live at or below the poverty line and are reliant on supplemental resources and outside aid. These individuals and families don’t have the luxury of remaining isolated at home. Instead, they are forced to travel to local agencies and nonprofits to secure basic staples, opening an already vulnerable group up to further possible infection.
In tandem with HOW housing, our support services have become a necessary lifeline for many of our individuals and families across the city during this pandemic. Every day we work to support our clients and alleviate the pain and stress from the detrimental outcomes stemming from COVID-19. And despite their stories of job loss, not being able to see their doctors, and laundry list of growing worries, the current low rate of known infection within HOW’s client population demonstrates the life-saving impact of being housed.
While we can’t change the “high-risk” status of those we serve, we know that housing can help them defy the odds.