Evictions do not affect everyone the same. As pandemic protections for tenants are expected to be lifted on June 30, Black women are projected to suffer the most. According to USA Today and the University of California, Berkeley, Black women are more likely than any other group to face eviction. Evictions against Black women get filed at twice the rate of than those against white women nationally.
Throughout the pandemic, many people took advantage of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program to help pay rent. Data shows that 85% of those served were Black women.
Black women often are the sole providers for their children and are the most vulnerable to job loss. Even before 2020, Black women faced many evictions in at least 17 states, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
The pandemic shined a glaring light on disparities throughout Black and brown communities. From housing to education to healthcare to jobs, the pandemic has proven there are lasting consequences for these groups that many don’t recover from. Eviction makes it hard to find proper housing in the future. It also has reproductive health and child welfare consequences, as children of mothers who face evictions are far more likely to live in substandard housing, leading to poor health outcomes.
An eviction in the midst of a global pandemic adds other layers of worry and complication. For thousands of people, homelessness is a devastating reality. Shelters are overcrowded, which makes social distancing and quarantining nearly nonexistent.
The truth is that the $900 billion coronavirus stimulus plan that includes $25 billion for rental assistance is only a temporary Band-Aid. It still allows landlords to file evictions; it only blocks them from taking those cases to court. When job losses and other pressures left renters unable to pay an accruing debt to their landlords, the government and most states set suspensions that blocked evictions. However, the ban is set to expire on June 30, and landlords will then be able to take all those cases to court.
Just this past week, I had family visiting from out of town. We went out to eat at restaurants, drove all over Los Angeles with the ridiculous gas prices, and even spent the day at Disneyland. We conversed about how everything is so expensive — groceries, travel, etc. But we are blessed to be in a position to stay afloat. That is not something that’s taken lightly. The world is desperate to reopen, and people want their normal back. However, there are still people out here struggling to stay in their homes. It is a scary time. We are weeks away from the possible eviction of millions of Americans who have fallen behind in their rent. What will they do? Where will they go? How will they recover?
When someone is evicted, the reality is that it leaves a blemish on their record, and their credit takes a big hit. The trauma runs deep. It will make it more difficult to rent a new place. To find something less expensive means they may be farther from their job, their child’s school, food resources, or public transportation. It could mean longer commutes, higher transportation costs, less family time, new schools, new clinics, greater distance from a grocery store, safety concerns, and challenges maintaining a job.
I feel that unfortunately, when Black women are evicted from their homes, it’s a misunderstood concept. It’s not always as simple as “She didn’t pay her rent.” Sure, eviction is a result of a tenant’s failure to pay. But oftentimes this leaves out the rules around eviction filings and how discrimination and devaluation of Black women factor in. A prime example is King County in Washington state. That country has one of the highest eviction rates for Black women. Landlords in King County file against Black women at five times the rate at which they file against white people, in some cases for less than $10 in back rent.
For Black women, noisy children, car trouble, an illness, or lost hours at work can become grounds for eviction. Evictions can change a family’s entire dynamic and have lasting effects. It makes it difficult for families to regain stability. These effects fall disproportionately on Black and brown women, and their children.
In my home state of Missouri, Congresswoman Cori Bush won a battle last year as she camped outside of the state Capitol for five nights to draw attention to the federal eviction moratorium and compel Congress to act. “I’ve been evicted three times in my life — once following a violent domestic assault in which a former partner left me for dead. I’ve lived out of my car for months with my two babies. I’ve seen my belongings in trash bags along my backseat,” she has written. “I know what that notice on the door means. Cold from the elements or wondering where I could find a bathroom, I’ve wondered who was speaking up in DC for people in my situation.”
Sometimes I wonder what will kill us first — the pandemic or poverty? Eviction is a consequence of poverty, and what we know is that Black women are disproportionately affected by eviction through a system that is broken. If this pandemic does nothing else, it needs to incite more and longer-lasting attention to the social and political structures that shape how Black women are experiencing the pandemic — and take action so that a factor like race will have no impact on their livelihood.
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Archuleta is an author, poet, blogger, and host of the FearlessINK podcast. Archuleta's work centers Black women, mental health and wellness, and inspiring people to live their fullest potential.