por Francisco Dueñas
I worked for many years as an advocate for LGBT rights and I think there is a link, or several, between that fight and the fight for the rights of tenants.
First and foremost it is the same struggle to be accepted. If I think about who are the groups that have more difficulty finding and retaining housing in the US, they are marginalized communities, such as farm laborers, people with criminal records, LGBT people.
These people are denied housing at the individual level as well as at the societal level. At the individual level, many people are victims of housing discrimination. They are denied an apartment or are harassed by landlords. At the societal level, not enough houses are planned or built for certain groups, and when they are proposed they are challenged.
There are entire cities that never build affordable housing for low-income people. That is discrimination on a macro level. And when housing projects are announced for homeless people, or for people with mental disabilities, neighbors oppose it. They say, “Well, yes, there should be housing for these people, but not here.” As a gay person I know how harmful it is not to be accepted, never to feel that you are welcome.
When a person or a group of people are not accepted, we do not pay much attention to them or where they live, as long as they do not live nearby. It’s even less likely that we offer shelter.
The second similarity that I see between these two struggles is that both require a fundamental change of beliefs. Understanding that there are a variety of sexualities and genders that are innate and should be, not only respected, but celebrated, is a major social change. LGBT people are making that change, little by little, by living their lives openly and sharing their needs and experiences with loved ones.
The fight for a fair housing system is also a project of great social change. It requires that we consider housing not only as an individual asset, which can be sold and bought, but also as a communal asset, one on which we all depend.
The coronavirus has clearly shown us that we all need a home to be safe and healthy, not only as individuals but also as a society. Housing is a human need and must be managed as a public service, such as electricity or water. We have both private and public light companies. From that perspective, support is expanded for the construction of affordable housing by our government for the most needy, as in other countries.
If you think you have been discriminated against in your home, seek support from organizations like the Housing Rights Center (housingrightscenter.org). If you would like to fight for housing for homeless community members visit Everyone In (everyoneinla.org). Finally, the city of Los Angeles is considering a law against tenant harassment. Follow the Healthy LA coalition (healthyla.org) to support.