All children need and deserve a safe and stable place to live. Even before COVID-19, too many of our children lived in families struggling to keep a roof over their heads – particularly children of color and those from low-income households. More North Carolina families are experiencing housing insecurity as a result of the pandemic. 1 in 5 renters are behind on their rent payments. When housing is unstable, it can turn children’s lives upside down, disrupting access to vital community services like food, health care, and school. Keeping families in stable housing can address multiple factors that are critical to a child’s healthy development.
As the state organizing director for North Carolina Housing Coalition (NCHC), I have the opportunity to partner with a variety of housing professionals to engage local, state, and federal level decision-makers on affordable housing. Together we advocate for funding and services that help keep families in their homes. Just as important, our work aims to influence policies that address the structural and racial inequities in housing and other social determinants of health.
Advocating together for kids
Housing, education, and health care are not mutually exclusive issues. For the families who are furthest from opportunity, the intersection of all these struggles is a daily challenge. Tackling all these different issues affecting our families can feel overwhelming to an individual or small organization. That’s why we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with advocates from different sectors, with the common mission of a better quality of life for children and families across North Carolina.
That is the purpose of the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign, led by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. This year, NCHC has partnered with NC Child to build a coalition that is focused on meeting the critical needs that are facing too many North Carolina families during the time of COVID-19. We will advocate for much-needed economic relief and protections to keep families in their homes, many of which are highlighted in President Biden’s American Rescue Plan currently being debated in Congress.
Supporting affordable housing
Affordable housing should be available to everyone. Through this campaign, we will not only fight for immediate protections and relief for those at risk of homelessness, but also equitable policy changes that prevent crises like this from happening again. Addressing the current housing crisis supports many of the other factors that contribute to a child’s wellbeing. For example, a safe and nurturing home allows families to lower their risk to exposure to community spread of coronavirus. Assistance with utilities and resources like internet access sets kids up for success at school. Access to healthy and affordable food will keep children healthy and thriving. Housing is one of the biggest costs most families have to face. Supporting affordable housing helps families in turn contribute to their local economy, from grocery stores to gas stations to child care.
Our past successes have shown us that when we work together, we can improve the health and wellbeing of North Carolina’s children. To learn more about the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign, please visit https://www.opportunityhome.org/. Stay connected with NC Child and NCHC for updates on this collaboration and upcoming advocacy opportunities in North Carolina.
Adrienne Spinner is the State Organizing Director for the North Carolina Housing Coalition.