MHSA’s Racial and Ethnic Equity Commitment

History and data show that there are stark racial/ethnic inequities in the delivery and allocation of housing and services to those experiencing homelessness. These inequities are not random. Instead, these inequities are symptomatic of historical and contemporary policies, practices, and institutional norms that reflect systemic and persistent racism.

Racism cuts very deep. It extends beyond the phenomenon of homelessness to the criminal justice system, the health care system and the social service system. For these reasons, it is imperative that we collectively move beyond a color-blind approach, performative catch phrases (diversity, inclusion, etc.), good intentions, and the collection of more data to no end.

Thus, MHSA is committed to applying an effective equity agenda to all aspects of our work by taking action steps, that are, conscious and focused and will enhance our ability to end homelessness in ways that leave no one behind.

“Equity in homeless services is not a given but is something that must be worked towards on a daily basis to permeate our daily work, attitudes, and mission.”

– MHSA Staff

Photo collage of MHSA program participants in a jigsaw puzzle

Blue Jigsaw Communication Strategy

  • In our communications with everyone – staff, the MHSA Board, member agencies, public and private partners, donors, and the general public – we will be explicit on how traditional systems have exacerbated inequities in homelessness.
  • We will have informed and sometimes difficult conversations about inequities internally, with member agencies, Board members, people with lived experience of homelessness, and other partners.
  • When feasible, present and frame data to internal and external stakeholders highlighting the importance of racial/ethnic inequities, with the goal of creating buy-in for advocacy at the local, state and federal levels.

Dark Blue Jigsaw Data Collection and Analysis Plans

  • We will continue to take necessary steps to implement the collection, analysis, and use of race and ethnicity data as an integral part of program development, evaluation, continuing improvement efforts, quality assurance, supervision, and accountability in all MHSA work.
  • With sensitivity and respect, we will incorporate insights from a racially and ethnically diverse population of people with lived experience of homelessness into program development, evaluation, and continuing improvement efforts.

Berry Jigsaw Resource Allocation

  • We will use MHSA resources to develop and/or support equitable, culturally, trauma-informed responsive strategies to end homelessness.
  • We will participate in and, where appropriate, play a leading role in efforts to identify, advocate for, and allocate funds and resources for historically disenfranchised populations experiencing homelessness.
  • We will collaborate as a financial intermediary to support agencies in addressing racial/ethnic inequities.

Pink Jigsaw Organizational Structure

  • We will train and educate staff on the connection between systemic inequities and homelessness.
  • We will recruit, hire, cultivate, and promote multicultural staff into leadership positions.
  • We will continue to diversify the MHSA Board to be more representative across demographic strata, including race/ethnicity.
  • We will expand and diversify MHSA membership of homeless service providers to include nontraditional partners in communities of color that serve people experiencing homelessness.

Blue Jigsaw Advocacy Work

  • Through the Speakers’ Bureau, legislative advocacy, and leadership development, empower people with lived experience of all races and ethnicities to become advocates for housing solutions within MHSA and across Massachusetts.
  • We will advocate for legislative changes in partnership with local organizations and providers that elevate issues of racial/ethnic inequities and homelessness.
  • We will advocate that data on homelessness from the clinical to social service sectors include measures of race and ethnicity and that results are presented by demographic groups.
  • We will review systems regularly and advocate for change accordingly to ensure that individuals are not excluded individually or systematically from housing or related services due to structural racism, such as through racially insensitive triage or coordinated entry systems.
  • We will coordinate with community-level activists and advocacy leaders in Massachusetts to have organizational knowledge exchange, and to discuss how to better address racial/ethnic inequities with the goal of amplifying “disruptive” ideas alongside mainstream housing solutions.

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