02/24/2011 01:53 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

An Unfortunate Truth: African Americans and Homelessness

Homelessness is a serious problem here in Los Angeles. We are used to seeing problems affect the African-American community more strongly than some others, but few are so very disproportionate in their impact as homelessness. This is an unfortunate truth the oftentimes gets overlooked in our own analysis of the epidemic of homelessness in Los Angeles, and around the country. African-Americans are seven times more likely to be homeless than whites, and twenty times more likely than Latinos.

While health, education, and income disparities in the Southland usually leave African-Americans and Latinos both at the bottom, homelessness is one problem that targets African-American men, women, and families. Nearly half of all homeless people in Los Angeles County are African-American... even though less than nine percent of all people in Los Angeles County are.

As we reflect on our history and heritage this February, and the great strides we have made in recent decades, we must also consider the great disparities that afflict our community today and move forward to find solutions. As an African American man growing up in the inner city, I know firsthand the impact and affect of poverty in the African American community. Poverty is the leading factor and gateway to homelessness, and many of the people who are living in this condition unfortunately are people of color, and specifically African American.

At the Weingart Center, over half of the homeless who occupy the Weingart's 576 residential beds or using community-based support programs are of African ancestry. Rather than just meeting the short-term needs of a bed and a meal, the Weingart Center keeps the focus on long-term solutions: employment, permanent supportive housing, family reunification, and recovery. Our mission is to inspire hope again in all people who are disenfranchised and left without a safe place to call home.

In a world where a black man is more likely to go to prison than college, Weingart Center has 95 beds and a computer learning lab set aside for parolees from state prisons who have nowhere else to go. This community re-entry program model is one of the best in the country in helping men and women get reconnected to their families, communities, and society at large.

Poverty and homelessness are among the most pernicious plagues on the African-American community. Our efforts at the Weingart Center will lift some members of the African American community to a higher standard of living.

We must remember, especially during Black History Month, that we have more work to do to improve these disproportionate inequalities in our communities.