COVID-19 Rental Assistance, Multicultural Access and Racial Equity

By United Way of King County, on April 15, 2020 | In News, Racial Equity

“We know in this time that those who were underserved will continue to be underserved—even more.”

Ginger Kwan, Executive Director, Open Doors for Multicultural Families

Earlier today, as part of our weekly updates on our COVID-19 efforts, we hosted a conversation between Ginger Kwan, Executive Director of Open Doors for Multicultural Families, and our CEO, Gordon McHenry, Jr.

The two leaders talked about how COVID-19 has affected the community here in Seattle and King County, especially around affordable housing, rental assistance and racial equity.

You can watch their conversation here:

Some specific highlights from their conversation:

Multicultural Services Break Down Barriers

“Our staff come from the community and speak the language, so we’re removing the language barriers, the cultural barriers,” Ginger shared. “As a result, we’re able to work with families more closely and people will feel more comfortable [sharing] the challenges they’re facing.”

Housing & How Communities of Color Are Affected

“We knew there is disproportionality that existed among communities of color, in terms of those who were homeless or suffering from housing instability with numbers that were four, five, or six times the amount based on the population,” Gordon said. “We are seeing that is increasing. We’re also seeing it in the initial requests for rental assistance.”

“I’m concerned that COVID-19 is going to weigh most heavily on our communities of color,” he said.

Ginger added that her organization is also seeing impacts on other communities, such as those with disabilities, day laborers, youth, multigenerational families co-sharing housing and more.

We’re in This Together

In a closing comment, Ginger shared this powerful reminder, “Only when we come together, we can become stronger.”

Gordon echoed this sentiment, saying, “As we come together as one community, we can get through this.”

The More Money We Raise, the More People We Can Help

Last Friday, we launched our rental assistance program—a fund with an initial $5 million available to help people in Seattle and throughout King County cover their April rent. The fund was possible thanks to generous donors and community partners like the City of Seattle and King County.

Within a couple days we received over 5,000 applications for rental assistance. The need was so great, we’ve had to pause taking applications for now.

“The only limiting factor in our providing rental assistance is the size of the fund,” said Gordon. “We have to continue to raise money for this fund.”


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