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Housing Justice is Racial Justice: Q & A with Tamara Bauman

Tamara Bauman is a Wellbeing Blueprint signer and housing advocate with Solid Ground in Seattle, WA. The Wellbeing Blueprint sat down with Tamara to discuss innovations in the housing justice movement, centering community in housing policy and actions anyone can take to advance housing as a human right.

What is housing justice?

To me, housing justice is racial and social justice. And what that looks like is acknowledging the interlocking systems of oppression that have historically and intentionally been designed to exclude BIPoC communities from the benefits of mainstream society. And we have to start naming housing justice by looking at housing injustice as a legacy of white supremacy and colonialism.

How do you approach centering community in the context of housing?

One of the things I noticed when I first entered the housing field was that there was no one with lived experience at the table talking about housing policy. So my job at that time was to recruit and bring more people currently or previously experiencing homelessness to the table to talk about gaps in the homeless response system and to co-create solutions to those gaps.

We’re also centering people with lived experience by acknowledging that trauma is a universal experience. At some point, everyone is going to experience something traumatic like the death of a loved one. And homelessness is definitely a source of trauma for every single one of the program participants I work with. So normalizing that helps us better align our services and communications in a way that is respectful and compassionate.

My favorite thing about FFI and the Wellbeing Blueprint is always starting with what is meaningful to that community, to that person or family. That’s ultimately where the housing justice movement is headed because we know that housing outcomes are more likely to be successful when they are designed by the people seeking housing.

What are some innovations in housing justice you’d like to lift up?

Here in King County, we recently established a Regional Homelessness Authority that consolidates our city and county contracts into one umbrella organization to more effectively utilize resources and address homelessness via stronger cross-sector collaboration and streamlined service coordination between stakeholders. It’s also guided by a theory of change that’s been co-created with the Lived Experience Coalition, which is also part of the Continuum of Care, and they sit at the governing committee level.

Health Through Housing is another initiative here, where King County is buying up hotels and converting them into permanent supportive housing and emergency housing options.

There’s also the Housing not Handcuffs campaign from the National Law Center on Homelessness. They have a ton of great materials, information and handouts about how housing is a human right and how you can advocate to stop penalizing folks experiencing homelessness.

What are some actions anyone can take to advance housing justice?

  • Attend any and all public meetings that you can regarding housing.
  • Partner with your local Continuum of Care, who are tasked with managing the entire homeless response system in each region.
  • Commit to pushing back against developers, policymakers and property managers that engage in both overt and covert forms of housing discrimination.
  • Know your landlord-tenant laws and build relationships with your local landlords to increase access for more vulnerable community members.
  • Build relationships with your local tenants unions and their advocacy actions.
  • Talk to your legislators and go to lobby days.
  • Connect with local service providers and partner with housing organizations to create mutual aid opportunities.

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