Reflections on the intersection of Housing, Health and Inequity Symposium – Day 3


“Shining a light of truth on these matters.”

I started out thinking that I was going to write this in just one piece but should have known better.  The culmination of Day 2 that spilled into Day 3, was a reception and dance party.  I was out to nearly midnight.  Fun, Fun, Fun!  Could not get up early for Day 3 but made most of the half day sessions.

The last session started out with storytelling.  Oral storytelling has been a very important part of histories of many people and cultures.  Storytelling is just so powerful!  Hearing stories helps burn images in my mind and helps me to remember issues so definitively.  The day started with powerful stories from two women who did not bear the vestiges that many consider to be telltale signs of homelessness.  For different reasons they had suffered homelessness.  Homelessness does not discriminate.  Yet they shared how unexpected life circumstances can lead to homelessness among anyone, but that doesn’t have to be the end of the story.

Bringing it full circle, the break-out session I attended had to do with inequity in housing.  There was a brief recap of redlining and its impact.  The mental image of huge highways being built in large cities across America to separate Black neighborhoods from white neighborhoods lingers.  They mentioned how good intentions can still be bad, such as the early practice of locating all low-income housing in a concentrated area.  They shared some solutions to help move us in the right direction for tackling the housing issues.

Here are a few things that were mentioned:  enhance support for renters, training, prevent involuntary displacement through policies and programs, increase access to representation and decision-making power.  Colorado passed several housing bills during the last session, tax credits for building affordable homes, and housing taking a center stage, currently, among presidential candidates.

We closed this wonderful Symposium hearing from a great leader Becky Marigotta of Billions Institute, 100,000 Homes Campaign.  She started her talk by saying that housing is healthcare and we all know this.  Becky had a healthy combination of serious insight and tips wrapped up with comedic warmth.  She shared her tips for transformational leadership.   I am not going to repeat them all, but I like what she said about some is not a number and sometime is not a time.  She mentioned this in the context of transformational leaders.  These leaders should build consensus toward bold quantifiable, time bound aims.  She heard this idea from Dr. Don Berwick in describing his 100,000 Lives Campaign.  She encouraged leaders to be specific and explicit in stating how much and by when.  Like, I am going to reach out to 10 people by August 1st before the sunsets to ask them to help spread the word about housing and health.  She applauded the Colorado Health Foundation for shining a spotlight of truth on the matters.  She really wished there were more conferences that did this.

So that is the conference in a nutshell from my perspective.  The Colorado Health Foundation really wanted this conference to inspire attendees to get the word out about these issues and most importantly, to move towards solutions.  With that in mind, I decided to take time out of my busy schedule to write these pieces and share the articles on the Colorado Black Health Collaborative (CBHC) Website and Facebook.  My hope is to get people interested and knowledgeable about these issues that impact the community.  I will also share the learnings and perspectives with other volunteers and my family.

Just a few closing thoughts.  This is not a poem, just some random musings.  It is your choosing to read or let it go.  But after a great emotive, motivating, and inspiring conference I just let the words flow to end this piece.

My Mind’s Eye on Housing and Health

In the end

How can we mend

This broken system

Of housing

Of health

And the delicate threads that bind

It will take more than one mind

More than one soul

It requires

That we aspire

To create solutions that may not be easy or pretty

But helps individuals, families, counties, and cities

These solutions have to initially shift seats of power

Break down the ivory towers

Let’s make sure

And try to cure

The housing ills

That ultimately will kill

Will kill us all!

Let’s truly become the United States of America

A country that values and respects

As well as protects

The lives of all

It starts with YOU!

Then red, white, and blue


Just for the health of it!

Dr. Terri Richardson

© 2015 Colorado Black Health Collaborative
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