Inadequate housing is a public health issue.
The SDRCC’s housing initiative focuses on education and empowerment. Their services take the form of workshops, advocacy, translation services, and outreach. Through this assistance, the SDRCC seeks to inform the communities it serves about local laws and services, provide advice, and enable members of those communities to understand their tenancy circumstances and defend themselves against any unjust treatment or agreements from their landlords.
A large part of the housing program is based around collaboration. One form this collaboration takes is rallies. A big topic of concern at the moment is rent increases and harassment or discrimination. If the City Council hosts a housing-related meeting, community members or partner organizations will attend to raise awareness of local struggles. Rallies also take the form of community gatherings, where attendees can discuss what law improvements to request and how to face discrimination.
A more personal note of SDRCC collaboration is the safe space provided during weekly workshops and other gatherings.
The coalition tries to reach as many of its members as possible about housing, since it is a topic relevant to each person it serves; as such, the organizations co-create plans for workshops but host them individually for different communities. This enables the ECBOs to provide culturally appropriate assistance, serve cultural food, and provide easier translation services.
Flyers and educational materials are shared twice a month, with each translated into 4 languages. These are shared via social media and posted in various locations as another method of sharing information. These flyers alert community members to organizations they can seek help from, upcoming workshops, rights and regulations, and other resources. One promoted program is Know Your Rights, which covers rights and resources for tenants. The SDRCC’s housing assistance is not limited to basic information and referrals; workshop topics include information about COVID eviction laws, types of notices, and common defenses against bias or harassment (including retaliation), and answer individual questions about specific scenarios. Through the variety in its services and broad reach of its programs, the SDRCC is extending housing assistance and education to a myriad of its refugee communities.
Poor housing conditions are associated with a wide range of health conditions, including respiratory infections, asthma, lead poisoning, injuries, and mental health (Sharfstein et al., 1998). Addressing housing issues offers public health practitioners an opportunity to address an important social determinant of health. Furthermore, preventing evictions is a critical from of social justice and health perspectives. Eviction takes a tremendous toll on tenants and their families as it stems from, deepens, or leads to displacement and financial instability (Desmond, 2016). Eviction disproportionately impacts minorities and is also a common occurrence in the lives of the urban poor (Desmond, 2012). An abundance of research over the last few years links eviction with persistent adolescent and adult health problems, including stress that leads to or exacerbates health conditions (Hoke et al., 2021).
By providing tenants with knowledge of their rights and steps to take when faced with issues related to their rental unit, a tenant’s health has the potential of being improved. The connection between health and eviction, and the potential of an educational intervention to reduce evictions and improve health, has been demonstrated by a study in Tucson, Arizona.