Originally published by the Office of the Provost
U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Marcia Fudge hosted a press briefing via Zoom last week with student journalists currently attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Florida A&M University (FAMU) was represented by Dejania Oliver, a graduating senior in the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication (SJGC) and editor in chief of the FAMUAN.
“I was honored to represent FAMU and SJGC at the press briefing,” said Oliver. “It was a great way for students to hear directly from Secretary Fudge about the housing and infrastructure issues we see in our communities.”
More than 30 HBCUs were represented during the briefing, and each student was allowed one HUD-related question regarding the department’s plans for 2022. Fudge answered questions about fair housing, homelessness, and how HBCU students can be a catalyst for change.
“Rising rent prices all over the U.S have left communities, specifically Black communities, scrambling to keep their homes,” Oliver said. “People are now displaced because they have little to no renter protection. College students have experienced the effects of rising rent costs and now face the reality of not being able to afford where they live.”
Fudge also discussed a federal rental assistance program to help those who are at risk of being evicted. Although the program initially experienced challenges due to a lack of available funds as compared to the growing need, Fudge said the program is now being reevaluated.
“I think that you’re going to start to see that the problem is not going to be as great, but I think you also have to understand evictions were high in certain communities before the pandemic. We just stalled them for a while,” she said. “But the problem is not going to be nearly as bad as it could have been had we not provided the almost $46 billion in rental assistance.”
According to HUD’s 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR), approximately 580,000 people were homeless in 2020, prompting Fudge and her team to begin assessing the issue in various communities around the country.
“I think people would be shocked at the fact that most of the people who live on the streets today don’t live there because they are mentally ill or they’re on drugs,” Fudge said. “Most of them will say it is the economy. They cannot afford to live in an apartment in most major cities in this country.”
Fudge closed the discussion by encouraging the students to help people most in need and Oliver agreed with the Secretary’s sentiments.
“We have an obligation to be vocal about the issues we see in our communities. As Secretary Fudge said in the meeting, if we don’t talk about it, no one will. If we start speaking out about what we see and calling those in power to action, we can start to see change.”
adapted from the original story by Dejania Oliver