WASHINGTON DC – The Opportunity Starts at Home campaign applauds Congress for recently enacting the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)” to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. This response package included $12 billion in housing and homelessness funding to help prevent an outbreak among people experiencing homelessness and to provide resources and protections for renters with low incomes. This was an important first step, but far more resources are needed to meet the urgent needs of people who are currently experiencing homelessness and people who are now on the brink.  The campaign has outlined its specific recommendations to meet these needs, which were not fully addressed in the CARES Act.

Opportunity Starts at Home is an unprecedented, broad-based campaign focused on the housing needs of people with low incomes.  Through the campaign, leading national organizations in housing, education, health, civil rights, food security, economic mobility, criminal justice, environmental protection, faith, and more have come together to jointly advocate for stable, affordable homes.  These organizations, which serve on the campaign’s Steering Committee and Roundtable, come from a wide range of sectors, each with their own perspectives and concerns. Yet, all believe that their own goals are inextricably linked to whether people have access to stable, affordable homes.  The COVID-19 pandemic has made these connections even more apparent and urgent.


“Before the pandemic, roughly 10 million households with extremely low incomes were either experiencing homelessness or paying unaffordable rental costs that forced them to make untenable choices between paying for housing and paying for other necessities like food and medicine,” said Mike Koprowski, National Director of the Opportunity Starts at Home Campaign.  “Because of the coronavirus and the associated economic shocks, these numbers are likely to grow dramatically.  If Congress does not provide the urgent resources needed to address housing instability, the consequences will be far-reaching and long-lasting.  An unmitigated surge in evictions and homelessness would worsen public health risks, place more strain on our hospital systems, and further increase hardship for individuals and families, especially low-income children whose lives and learning progress have already been upended by school closures.”

“Ensuring everyone is stably housed is not only a moral imperative – it’s a public health necessity,” said Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.  “When hundreds of thousands are left without homes during this public health emergency – and with millions more on the cusp of eviction and homelessness – we can’t as a country truly contain the pandemic.  While the CARES Act was an important start, future COVID-19 relief packages must include significantly more resources to fully address housing instability and homelessness.”

“Housing insecurity and homelessness are devastating for kids and students,” said Lily Eskelsen García, President of the National Education Association.  “We know that these issues are felt more sharply for Black, Latino, Indigenous and poor families. Having families and students worried about where they will sleep at night – or if they will have a safe place to sleep – makes it even more challenging to focus on school related work and distance learning. Our response to the coronavirus crisis must include secure housing in addition to access to nourishing food, medical care and testing.”

“As providers of health care to more than 30 million low-income Americans, the nation’s Community Health Centers know very well the close link between housing instability and poor health,” said Tom Van Coverden, President and CEO of the National Association of Community Health Centers. “Especially in the throes of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the vital importance of stable, affordable housing for CHC patients and their families has never been more pressing, or more important.”

“Even before facing the spread of COVID-19, individuals and families were already struggling to meet their basic human needs,” said Sister Donna Markham OP, PhD, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA.  “Issues such as the lack of affordable housing and healthcare for people without insurance, homelessness and insufficient access to food already existed as the coronavirus pandemic hit.  This crisis has only exacerbated these social inequities. The CARES Act is a critical first step to addressing these urgent needs as it focuses on the most vulnerable in our communities, but more is needed.  Assisting people in need is not just our work.  It is our moral imperative and is at the heart of our mission.”

“COVID-19 poses a quadruple threat to food security, housing, public health, and the economy,” said Luis Guardia, President of the Food Research & Action Center.  “In every corner of the country, an alarming number of people are increasingly facing impossible decisions like paying to put food on the table or paying to keep a roof over their head. Federal action is needed now to meet the pressing needs of people experiencing homelessness and housing instability and to boost the SNAP maximum benefit by 15 percent.  This will help ensure people’s basic needs are met while also stimulating the economy.”

“Stable, affordable housing has always been a critical underpinning of safety and equity for women and girls,” said Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center.  “Yet this pandemic has made us more conscious than ever of the role housing must play in providing safety and equity for our society as whole. From domestic violence to food insecurity to the particular impact of COVID-19 on Black communities, affordable housing is an essential measure to prevent this crisis from becoming a tragedy. By expanding both assistance in obtaining and supply of such housing, and ensuring that conditions are safe, we can better protect all of us.”

“During this pandemic and time of physical distancing, affordable, safe housing is essential for everyone’s health,” said Daniel H. Gillison, Jr., CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  “Lack of housing options is why many people with mental illness end up on the streets and in jails, putting them at higher risk for coronavirus.  People living with mental illness are particularly vulnerable because they need stability to recover which isn’t possible without a roof over your head.  Addressing the housing needs of adults living with mental illness is the first step towards stability and recovery, and is critical to getting us through this public health crisis. This will save lives in the long run.”

“In the short run and for years to come, the COVID-19 pandemic will significantly disrupt the lives of millions of indigent and low-income Americans – many of whom lived on the margins of society prior to the virus,” said Dr. Angelo McClain, CEO of the National Association of Social Workers.  “Additionally, emerging epidemiological data indicate that deaths and severe illness from coronavirus disproportionately impact communities of color. A compounding fact is that, with COVID-19 related job losses in the tens of millions, economic emergencies are not only occurring among poor people, but moderate-income individuals and families also.  Social workers are well aware that among individuals and families that are economically disadvantaged, safe and affordable housing is one of the most immediate needs. We also know, from a public health standpoint, that one of the most damaging social determinates of health is being homeless or living in an unstable housing environment.  As the CEO of the National Association of Social Workers, I am unequivocal in urging that Congress ensure adequate funding for emergency rental assistance and comprehensive support of homeless services for families and single adults.”

“The Healthcare Anchor Network is a national collaboration of 50 leading hospitals and healthcare systems building more inclusive and sustainable local economies. Our members know that good health requires that all of us live in safe homes that we can afford,” said David Zuckerman, Director of the Healthcare Anchor Network. “The pandemic and economic crises we face have made the housing and health connection even more apparent. People need a home to be able to wash their hands, be protected from the elements, and maintain their health and safety. Moreover, research has shown that safe and affordable housing helps to curb healthcare costs and that certainly includes the current urgent short-term needs for some Americans.”

“COVID-19 has exposed the fractures in our housing system,” said Gina McCarthy, President and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council.  “Keeping people safe during a public health crisis starts with safe, stable housing, and yet millions are threatened with sickness, eviction and homelessness right now. Families are struggling, many unable to pay their rent, electricity and water bills leaving far too many threatened with eviction or dealing with no power and no water in their homes. Every person and family should have access to healthy, clean affordable housing, and our federal government needs to ensure these critical housing needs are met.”

“The State of Babies Yearbook: 2019 showed us that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, far too many infants and toddlers lived in crowded or unstable housing,” said Myra Jones-Taylor, Chief Policy Officer at ZERO TO THREE.  “The current public health crisis has exacerbated these needs. Like an earthquake, this pandemic has disrupted everyone without prejudice and magnified the vulnerabilities within our systems to support families. Now our most over-burdened and under resourced families must brace for the impending economic tsunami that will disproportionately impact those that cannot make it to higher ground. Babies and families urgently need policies in support of housing security designed to protect them during this crisis and into the future.”

“The coronavirus pandemic has been very taxing on our neighbors experiencing homelessness and on our health care providers working to keep them healthy and safe,” said Vincent A. Keane, President and CEO of Unity Health Care, Inc.  “While we and our partners are tirelessly working to secure personal protective equipment for our staff, we’re also seriously concerned about safe housing options for homeless residents exposed to the coronavirus and those who are medically frail. Congress must act now to address housing instability along with other immediate needs to ensure low-income Americans remained housed and avoid further economic devastation.”

“The link between stable housing and student success in school is clear,” said Jennifer Blatz, President and CEO of StriveTogether.  “Our network members are helping to stabilize housing and education needs during the COVID-19 crisis while partnering with their local housing authorities and school systems to develop solutions to address structural inequities once and for all.  As students and their families face unprecedented challenges during this pandemic, federal housing resources can help bring some much needed stability to those in need.”

“Even before the COVID-19 crisis, housing was one of the most frequently unmet needs for domestic violence survivors in the U.S.,” said Alejandra Y. Castillo, CEO of YWCA USA. “Across our national network, YWCAs have seen a significant spike in demand for rental assistance, temporary shelter, and other housing services among domestic violence survivors, seniors, veterans, and other women and children facing job loss and economic uncertainty. We implore Congress to take immediate action to address housing instability and homelessness. Channeling these resources now will protect our communities for the long-term recovery ahead.”

“Now with more than 26 million Americans newly furloughed or unemployed, investing in housing and providing protections from evictions is needed now more than ever,” said Sister Mary Haddad RSM, President and CEO of the Catholic Health Association of the United States.  “The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of the deadly consequences of higher rates of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease tied to poverty. Keeping people housed will not only be more affordable in the short-term but will provide the stability necessary for people to stay healthy and help rebuild our economy.”

“Congress can and must prevent an unprecedented crisis coming closer with each week of record-breaking unemployment,” said Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director of the Coalition on Human Needs. “Families unable to pay rent for two or more months and then suddenly required to pay up will be evicted, plunged into debt, or both. We cannot allow depression-level conditions to dig a hole families cannot escape. Support so families have housing stability is essential. Without it, families will face even greater health threats, even more gaps in their children’s education and well-being, and even less ability to stay in the labor force. Secure housing holds families together; Congress must help.”

“As COVID-19 continues to spread and infect the most vulnerable, the connection between housing and health status is more apparent than ever,” said G. Robert Watts, CEO of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council.  “It is critically important that communities have the resources they need to provide appropriate health care and support services for persons experiencing homelessness. Our health care providers on the front lines will also attest that mitigating the consequences of this pandemic will only be possible with immediate action to identify housing and appropriate isolation/quarantine spaces for those living on the streets. Beyond these short-term necessities, we see this is an opportunity for policymakers at all levels of government to implement broad solutions that prevent homelessness, such as robust investments in affordable housing, and give everyone in our communities a fighting chance for housing stability and the health benefits that come with it.”

“During COVID-19, with domestic violence rates surging across the country, federal housing resources are more critical than ever for survivors of gender-based violence,” said Heidi Notario, Vice President of Partnership and Systems Change at the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.  “At the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, we know that domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness and housing insecurity.  Survivors are often faced with the impossible choice between staying in an abusive relationship or becoming homeless because they are embedded in communities that lack accessible, affordable housing. The current pandemic is intensifying this long-standing problem.  Home is not a safe place for many survivors of domestic violence and increased economic, health, family, and emotional stressors, along with limited access to support systems, are making survivors increasingly vulnerable. Congress must act immediately with greater resources to ensure housing stability for those in need, including survivors.  Safe housing is a human right.”

“Housing is a human right! In the midst of this pandemic, fulfilling this right is more important than ever,” said Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice.  “Many of us take for granted that we can shelter at home to avoid infection. But our sisters and brothers experiencing homelessness and those at risk of losing their homes are highly vulnerable to this disease. Congress must immediately provide funding and services to prevent housing instability during this crisis. They must act to stop evictions and foreclosures that are forcing families out of their homes because of their inability to pay. Remember the words of Pope Francis: ‘We can find no social or moral justification, no justification whatsoever, for lack of housing.”

Press Release