November 2016–In Franklin County, Ohio, African Americans make up 73% of families served in homeless shelters, yet are only 22% of the general population. SPARC (Supporting Partnerships for Anti-Racist Communities) Columbus is launching a community initiative for anti-racist homeless systems with a “Conversation about Racism & Homelessness” on Tuesday, November 29, 2016 at 4:30 p.m. (King Arts Complex, Pythian Theater, 867 Mt Vernon Avenue, Columbus).

The goals of the community conversation are to engage local stakeholders in a productive conversation about how racism drives homelessness and solicit input about ways the Columbus community can come together to address this issue. Speakers include Stephanie Hightower, President & CEO, Columbus Urban League; Michelle Heritage, Executive Director, Community Shelter Board; Jeff Olivet, CEO, Center for Social Innovation; and Marc Dones, Associate for Equity Initiatives & Diversity, Center for Social Innovation.

“To address systemic racism and homelessness, we must re-build from the ground up with racial equity as our top priority,” said Olivet. “Through SPARC Columbus, we are courageously and humbly owning our own privileges—and those of the community—and fighting against racism so things will change.”

Olivet and Dones are also training staff and leadership in the homeless service system on Monday, November 28. The training provides tools for implementing anti-racism conversations and organizational change in homeless service agencies.

Columbus is joining SPARC’s 10-city project on racism and homelessness. SPARC activities include public discussions and forums, trainings for providers and community stakeholders, qualitative and quantitative research, and collaborations with leadership in housing, health care, education, criminal justice, and other systems in 10 communities across the United States. The result will be a plan for anti-racist initiatives and strategies for Columbus and the other communities to implement over the next year.

SPARC Columbus activities are led by a group of community leaders convened by Community Shelter Board including Columbus Urban League, Franklin County Department of Job & Family Services, Office of Mayor Andrew Ginther (City of Columbus), and United Way of Central Ohio.

Learn more about SPARC’s work addressing racism and homelessness and join the conversation on Facebook!

The Center for Social Innovation promotes best practices that improve the lives of marginalized and vulnerable people. We focus on complex public health problems such as homelessness, trauma, mental illness, and addiction. Using state-of-the-art research, training, and technology, we help individuals, agencies, and communities deepen the impact of their work.