Work in Progress: Housing Trust and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

It’s been over two years since Housing Trust started an ad hoc diversity, equity and inclusion group. Since then, our Board of Directors has provided us with resources and support – including the creation of a DEI Committee of their own – to better allow Housing Trust to move from statements of support to action with results.

Earlier this summer, we shared our partnership with The Justice Collective to accelerate our work of centering race and equity into our organization and our affordable housing programs. Given the many competing priorities in the time of COVID-19 and heightened awareness around social and racial justice, it was all the more important to find our place within this movement. While we have much more work to do, the following are steps we have taken since June:

  • We prioritize holding time and creating space for staff to engage with each other and share experiences and conversations centered on race and diversity. Our in house DEI group, now called H.O.M.E. (Housers Originating More Equity), hosts monthly open-invite lunch time chats as another channel for staff to bring their voice and listen to one another.
  • We have updated the job descriptions for open positions to explicitly encourage people of color to apply and put our commitment to recruiting, retaining, and promoting diversity in our workforce and leadership to reflect the communities we serve. We’re also expanding our outreach to leverage professional networks targeting diverse membership.
  • We have created the role of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lead and have designated this title to a committed member of the staff committee. To give the title weight, this team member’s job description has changed to ensure at least 20% of their time will be spent on DEI organizational work.
  • With The Justice Collective, we reached out to every single employee across the organization to get a baseline survey of our cultural climate and gain input on opportunities for implementing equity throughout the organization internally.
  • We have set a timetable for a series of four customized foundational trainings to be provided to our entire team in order to build collective knowledge and capacity so we may each contribute to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in our individual and collective roles.
  • We have begun conversations with multiple external stakeholders to learn how they are approaching diversity, equity and inclusion at their respective organizations so we may be a better partner in that effort. Through these listening sessions we hope to further refine our programming.  

In addition, Housing Trust has instituted a streamlined expense reimbursement policy to support staff working from home with an office supply and home internet service provider upgrade budget. As working from home and remote learning has exposed huge resource gaps among workers, parents and students throughout the Bay Area, we wanted to ensure an equitable home work environment for all staff to effectively carry out their jobs outside of our San Jose office.

In the coming months, we hope to further these efforts. We’ll share what we learn and what we do – but we’ll also keep you apprised of challenges we find and setbacks we encounter. Through this process, we hope to keep ourselves accountable, make meaningful progress, and be there for our peers who are engaging in this work.