US Human Rights Network Blog
2019 - 2020 Human Rights Report, on Housing: I do not have a safe place to liveMay 27, 2020
On May 11, we released our 2019-2020 Human Rights Report. The report features 10 stories from 10 of our directly impacted members. One of them is “H”, whose identity is protected. Each week we’re highlighting one issue area, one story, on our social media accounts. Read H’s story below and check out the full report which includes a 2019-2020 update on the human right to housing in the US at www.upr2020.org/report.
(Artwork by April Jakubec)
City and state of residence: Unstable
Organizational affiliation (if any): The Lighthouse | Black Girl Projects
The human right to adequate housing includes seven key concerns: legal security of tenure; availability of services, materials, and infrastructure; affordable housing; habitable housing; accessible housing; location; and culturally adequate housing. Our storyteller, “H,” has consistently experienced the violation of one or multiple of these seven concerns during the last several years, particularly the guarantee of the physical safety which falls under the concern for habitable housing. These violations have compounded the systemic oppression she faces as a young black woman living in the US.
I am a first generation American. I am African. I am a queer, non-binary femme. I’m working class. Since I don’t fit into the hegemonic model of how America is supposed to work and for whom it works, my experiences have been affected by my identity. I’ve dealt with homelessness, racism, gender-based violations, sexual harassment and assault.
I was in a psychologically and physically unsafe household growing up. I rushed off to go to college; in a sense it was an escape for me. I was really involved in my housing life on campus, but I experienced institutional racism and saw how it pervaded a lot of things on campus. It was a very draining situation because there were a lot of micro-aggressions and underhanded racial dynamics. There was a moment where I was addressed as “the angry black woman” instead of having people try to understand my perspective and my actions. My grades were suffering.
When my campus housing contract ended in 2019, I moved in with my dad. He was living in a shared household with several other men who I didn’t know. After a while, my dad wasn’t coming home; he wouldn’t come home for two days at a time. I had a room to sleep in but the door was unlocked; I felt unsafe. There was a guy who lived there who started asking me weird and invasive questions. Alarm bells were going off in my head. He did things like offer me financial assistance, invite me out late at night when my dad was not around, and other actions that put me on edge given the context of the questions he was asking. I felt unsafe there.
I’m now staying back with my mother temporarily. I don’t have a stable home life. Right now I’m trying to figure out what my next steps are going to be. Grassroots organizations like The Lighthouse have been a blessing in my life. The Lighthouse has been really helpful in creating a place for me to rest so I can think straight, and think about the world from a place of possibility. I’m learning to see things for what they are, but not just accept them for how they are. It’s a place of rejuvenation where I feel recognized for my humanity.
I want a roof over my head but not just a roof over my head; I want a safe place — a safe house of my own. A home. A safe environment and community. I want liberation and reparations, including access to therapy, because the things that I’ve experienced — human rights violations — are things that stick with you. I’m realizing how mental, emotional, and spiritual health is wrapped up in physical safety and wellbeing.
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