When the CDC placed a moratorium on evictions, 18% of renters had fallen behind during COVID and could be evicted. The CDC warned that we were on the edge of a homelessness crisis. Today that number is 14%. Yet the moratorium could expire this month, and renegade landlords are already pursuing evictions.
I got COVID in February 2020. I did not have enough breath to walk upstairs to my apartment without resting until August 2020. So it’s no surprise that it took me about 12 months to recover financially from all the lost income. During that time, I did not worry about my kid’s schooling. I worried about what if I died. Or what if I didn’t die and I just fell so behind in work that we didn’t have food? Or I felt so behind in rent that we got evicted? Fortunately, I live in the bluest of blue states, and multiple agencies contacted me because I had COVID and asked if we needed help with rent.
Having a 14% increase in homelessness will overshadow any other efforts we have made to improve education.
Even the Washington Post, which is the conservative version of The New York Times, has come down hard in favor of the CDC ban. Without the moratorium on evictions, the long-term damage is not only huge but also easy to quantify.
- By the time a homeless child is 8 years old, 1 in 3 has a major mental disorder.
- Homeless children have twice the rate of learning disabilities and three times the rate of emotional and behavioral problems, all of which make homeless students twice as likely to repeat a grade as compared with non-homeless children.
- Homeless children perform worse academically than children categorized as low-income — homeless children scored 10 percentage points lower on the state math and English tests than low-income students who were not homeless.
We are so precious about everyone’s right to school in the US. But there’s a more fundamental right: the right to housing. Which does not exist in this country. The right to a home is feasible and logical in our society. But giving all kids a safe home to live in with their family would be revolutionary in our country. So instead we talk about the right to an education because we know that won’t change anything.
For the last ten years, I’ve been saying that education reform is a red herring. What we should really talk about is housing reform. So if you want to make a difference in education, fight against evictions. The CDC is on trial nationwide, and the landlords have much better lawyers than the renters. But just like education and homelessness are local in the US, so can rental moratoriums can be local. There are examples all over the US.
The picture up top is one Melissa sent to me while she was traveling. A church that provides free WiFi. She knows I hate vacation pictures, and I remember thinking this picture should not exist in a town where Melissa arrived by airplane to have dinner. Ten years later, living through COVID, the picture looks hopeful to me — part of a safety net at the local level. This may be proof that we can use any picture to support any opinion we have. Or it may be proof that we see what we want to see. Regardless, I want to see hope, and this is a moment of opportunity at the local level.