February 7, 2022
Last week, The Biden Administration named Jeff Olivet as the new Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH). The National Coalition for Housing Justice (NCHJ), whose membership knows Mr. Olivet and his work well, welcomes him to this role and looks forward to partnering with him and USICH as we pursue our shared vision of housing justice and a country where everyone has an affordable, safe, accessible, and stable home.
Mr. Olivet’s qualifications and values make him an outstanding choice for the Executive Director position. He brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise in homelessness policy and programs, and has been a leader in our field on centering racial justice and equity in the work towards ending homelessness and housing instability, including key roles in the development of the Supporting Partnerships for Anti-Racist Communities (SPARC) report and the formation of the National Racial Equity Working Group.
It is important to name and reconcile that there is a lack of racial diversity and leadership with lived expertise among government officials, policymakers, advocacy organizations, and homeless service and shelter providers. Because people of color, specifically Black people, disproportionately experience homelessness, leadership that reflects those who are most impacted and have lived expertise is an important pathway that leads us towards housing justice. In that spirit, we believe the Administration missed a critical opportunity to appoint the first Black, Indigenous, or Person of Color to the position of permanent Executive Director of USICH and make leadership reflective of those we work alongside and for.
NCHJ and its member organizations are not exempt from this critique. Disparities in racial diversity and leadership with lived expertise across our field is a barrier that we are continuing to individually and collectively own and address to move us toward a future of housing justice. NCHJ seeks to engage in principled struggle and build unity around housing justice, and we believe this can only be accomplished with honest, direct, and compassionate discussion and examination.
Mr. Olivet’s experience and skills position him to be honest with the field about what it will take to make transformational change. We look forward to working in true partnership — holding ourselves and USICH accountable — in moving the nation towards an end to homelessness and housing justice for all.