The Intersectionality of Homelessness, Race, and Mental Health: A Continued Conversation (Part II)

Updated: Jul 17


  1. 1. Do you have any comments or thoughts you would like to share regarding housing inequality in Charlottesville? If so, what have been your experiences/observations?: “The housing situation is sad. I don’t see it getting any better because I see them putting up things like courtyards that are only for some people to use. It angers me that people have acres and acres of land where only two to three people stay while others are scrambling to find space in an alleyway. I’m an inherent activist who tries to use negative energy to move people in a positive energy. I give my support of being the best person I can. I just do my part and hope someone looks at me and says, ‘Oh I liked how you did that, that was right." 

"Newark is like the pits of hell growing up and Charlottesville in comparison appeared to be so pretty and pleasant but I later discovered there were a whole lot of people hiding in the shadows who weren’t that pretty. The only place where a person can live if they have a few dollars is the saddest place they can live. My old landlord was a slumlord. He will lease to the folks that were trying to get housed. One of the reasons I stayed in Charlottesville, even though I didn’t know anything about it when I got here, was because it was so pretty and pleasant. The energy in the streets was great, but when I tried to find housing in a number of locations, I was turned down because I had a criminal background. There is no violence in my criminal past, and the worst thing I can do is beat you with an ink pen and a check. Nothing constituted that I would be a threat to anyone. So most of the housing, if you can get in it, you can’t afford it. I had to use two-thirds of my salary to pay my rent, and we’re so desperate to have a nice place to live where we forget about how we will pay for other things like food. So many things are complementary to housing inequality. So many things are connected to it. I don’t see it getting any better. Fortunately for my wife and myself, we were blessed with a stick-to-itiveness and being savvy enough to learn how to acquire a mortgage and learn what my income should be. For my other folks out there who have never had housing, they don’t have a clue. I’m now working to own my own house in Troy, VA.”


2. Can you comment on which factors seem to contribute significantly to housing inequality in Charlottesville?: “Racism is there, and prejudice — whether or not it is based on gender, ethnicity, you ain’t tall enough or too short...the list is endless. It’s not blatant, but the people who own housing pick and choose who they want on their property, and they work on a basis of misinformation. It won’t change unless they change what's in their heads. A great deal of people are operating on misinformation, just like I was.”


3. What do you hope changes about housing inequality?: “That everybody gets an opportunity to rent where they want to live and that more jobs have reasonable salaries like for essential workers who work so hard and earn peanuts in return. A number of things are coupled with housing, and if you want to have housing, you have to have the ability to pay for it. Paying me something that won’t help me and my family is an insult. If you can’t make the money, you can’t live in it.”


4. Are there any initiatives or programs at The Haven that have been implemented to reduce housing inequality?: “Not that I actually know of at this point. I know that I have been involved in bringing new ideas to the table, and my understanding is that even if we do find housing for people, most of the time, they can’t even maintain housing as they’re suffering from alcoholism or other issues: They move in in March, and they’re kicked out in April. When they first move in, they’re so unhealthy. We use the mindframe of spinning the bottle, and I get that it’s ‘housing first,’ but we need to come up with a solution that helps people maintain that housing. I’m working on putting together some programs, such as RAP, the Recovery and Purpose foundation. I’m trying to find a place where I can set up transitional housing for folks who are homeless right now or have recently been released from being incarcerated. Our niche is that we are going to offer a smorgasbord of services, so instead of having them do everything on their own, we’ll have a peer take them by the hand and take them to all the places so they have a peer to help them put some of fire out when it begins to ignite.”


5. Can you comment on the impact of racism on affordable housing in Charlottesville?: “I don’t have a lot of words, I really don’t. As much as many of us suggest that we don't see, we do see, but we choose not to see. If we don’t ask questions, we’ll never be provided with answers. I’m 60 years old, and the racial issues we face today will be prevalent as long as man lives as he will find another way to mask it. The only thing that racism does is it changes its looks. The KKK can’t come out in white sheets now; instead, they come out in urban gear with the mentality that ‘I need to make things that are accessible to me inaccessible to you because of your ethnicity, gender, etc.’ You’re not guiltless because you don’t know. Ask those questions and ask them to yourself. Once you know, you cannot ignore it anymore.”

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