March 2017—African Americans are more likely to become homeless than people of other racial or ethnic backgrounds in Syracuse, NY and across the country. During its January Point-in-Time Count, the Housing and Homeless Coalition of Central New York found more than half of the 440 people experiencing homelessness in Onondaga County were racial and ethnic minorities; whereas non-whites make up about 20 percent of the county’s population.

The Housing & Homeless Coalition of Central New York and Rescue Mission hosted a public forum on Wednesday, March 8 to launch SPARC (Supporting Partnerships for Anti-Racist Communities), a community initiative to address race and homelessness. The goals of the forum were to engage stakeholders in a productive conversation about how race and racism result in disproportionate homelessness for people of color and solicit input about ways Syracuse can address this issue.

“To address systemic racism and homelessness, we must re-build from the ground up with racial equity as our top priority,” said Jeff Olivet, CEO of the Center for Social Innovation (C4). “Through SPARC Syracuse, we are courageously and humbly owning our own privileges—and those of the community—and fighting against racism so things will change.”

C4’s SPARC team is also training staff and leadership in Syracuse’s homeless service system. The training provides tools for implementing anti-racism conversations and organizational change in homeless service agencies.

Funding for SPARC Syracuse comes from the Allyn Family Foundation and the Central New York Community Foundation.

SPARC’s 10-city project on racism and homelessness includes 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, including Syracuse. The result will be a plan for anti-racist initiatives and strategies for Syracuse and the other communities to implement. 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.