This fall, Mid-Columbia Community Action Council (MCCAC) released “MCCAC, A New Era”: the organization’s strategic plan for 2021-2024, led by the overarching goal of equity and racial justice. For executive director Kenny LaPoint, this new roadmap will allow the agency to “expand service provision and increase access to the many diverse communities that make the Mid-Columbia region such a wonderful place to call home.”
The housing rental crisis is felt by all of us in the community: our rents are often high and not commensurate with our incomes, many of us pay a large percentage of our income on rent, and there’s just not enough housing to go around.
Lack of affordable housing is the major driver behind housing insecurity and houselessness: In Hood River County alone, there are 1,162 individuals or families currently in need of housing. Over 700 of these households earn less than 50% of Average Median Income (AMI), or about $35,850 per year. The problem is, private developers are not producing housing that those making under $60,000 annually can afford. Instead, developers are producing housing that is affordable to those making higher incomes, creating a shortage for low income families.
The impacts of houselessness are not the same for everyone. BIPOC communities are especially hard hit when it comes to housing security because of structural racism and a legacy of discriminatory lending policies. Across the US, BIPOC communities experience homelessness at a greater rate than whites. LGBTQ individuals are twice as likely to experience homelessness as non-LGBTQ individuals. To address this, the Department of Housing and Urban Development added a provision in the Fair Housing Act this February that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the housing crisis, with many Americans unable to pay rent due to layoffs and loss of income. According to the Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, 15% of all adults were not caught up on rent from August 18 - 30th of 2021. This number was 22% of Black Americans, 19% for Asian Americans, and 18% for Latinos.
That’s why MCCAC’s first priority area in its new strategic plan is Equity and Racial Justice. Because housing and community service programs have historically failed to meet the needs of those disproportionately impacted by poverty and homelessness, MCCAC takes responsibility to ensure “BIPOC and LGBTQ+ community members have greater access to and have their needs met by our services.”
The organization is doing this by providing meaningful trainings to its staff and board on equity and racial justice, strengthening community involvement with culturally specific community partners, acknowledging that board structure stems from white dominant culture and ensuring diverse voices are represented and supported, developing an equity statement by January 2022, and providing Spanish and English language access on its new website and in other necessary mediums.
“We can do much better to meet the needs of the many diverse communities that make the Mid-Columbia region so great to call home,” said LaPoint. “We are going to start that work through internal reflection and by listening to the voices of the underserved. We need to allow those voices to influence how we provide services while also increasing diversity on our staff and board so that diverse community members become a part of our delivery system.”
While the road ahead will not be easy, the steps laid out in “MCCAC, A New Era” will certainly equip the organization to realize its mission: “to build a better future for our community through partnership and equity-centered programs that prevent and eliminate poverty and houselessness.”
Check out MCCAC's new strategic plan here: https://www.mccac.com/strategic-plan