The Hidden Health Crisis of Eviction.
Housing is a prescription for good health. Yet, as housing prices rise while wages remain stagnant, we know that millions of families and individuals are unable to afford a stable home. Across the country, public health initiatives to address homelessness through affordable housing combined with supportive services are being implemented. These models are critical for people experiencing homelessness.
But there is another public health crisis affecting our communities: eviction. An estimated 2.8 million households are at risk of eviction. Emerging research on the health impacts of evictions shines a light on this hidden problem lurking in the shadows of our communities. People who are threatened with eviction, even before they lose their home, are more likely to report poor health, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and psychological distress. Eviction often leads to residential instability, moving into poor quality housing, overcrowding, and homelessness, all of which is associated with negative health among adults and children.
Eviction is not just a health issue; it is a health equity issue. Matthew Desmond, in his book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, documents heart-wrenching stories of people facing eviction in Milwaukee. Placed against the backdrop of data showing three in four people in eviction court in Milwaukee on a given month are black, and many are women, Desmond writes, “Eviction is shaping the lives of poor black women, just as incarceration defines the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods.”
The rise of evictions and the disproportionate effect that it has on women of color and their children in our communities is unacceptable. Policies that reduce evictions are necessary for advancing health equity and improving public health across the country.
We need better tenant protections, especially in cities like Boston where gentrification is pushing people out of their homes. Passing legislation like the Jim Brooks Stabilization Act to provide direct legal and resource information to tenants at risk of displacement and eviction will protect tenants from no-fault evictions and major rent increases.
We need more investment in homes that people can afford in the communities where they desire to live, learn, and work. Increasing efforts to expand housing supply while promoting racial equity and directly addressing the needs of residents at greatest risk of displacement and eviction is critical to the health of our communities and our country.
Health systems have a role to play in reducing evictions, forced displacement, and housing instability. By investing in affordable housing and supportive services, health systems can leverage financial resources to improve housing stability. Additionally, health systems and healthcare organizations are also beginning to use their voice to advocate for increased federal and state resources and improved housing policies.
A stable home is the foundation of good health. When people are in homes they can afford in the neighborhoods in which they desire to live, they are healthier. Health care and public health institutions must do more to reduce evictions and forced displacement. All people have a right to a safe, decent, affordable home, and when they have one, we all benefit from healthier, thriving communities.
Allison Bovell-Amman is deputy director of policy strategy for Children’s HealthWatch. Megan Sandel is associate director of the Grow Clinic for Children, principal investigator with Children’s HealthWatch, associate professor of pediatrics at the School of Medicine, and associate professor of environmental health at SPH.
Thanks Allison and Megan. Glad to partner with you and stabilize families in housing with supportive services.
Hello to everyone. My name is Cynthia. Thank you for the opportunity, however, I don’t have a comment but a question.
I was in the process of being evicted. Absolutely, thee most stressful time I’ve ever faced to date. This is coming from reconstruction surgery of my wrist.
During the process, homelessness was my destiny and acceptance was the only way to handle this. So going to have a checkup was the thing to do so to start my brand new journey with some control.
During my appointment, the intake technician, my intake nurse, were both phenomenal. They allowed me to just say. After my vitals were taken and the results revealed to me. She asked me if I was ok and if something is happening in my life. YES, there was. My health was directly effected by the events. Suicidal contimplation.
When these are the effects of such an act, is there a statue of limitations. This occurred in March 2019.