April / May 2020 Newsletter


Health and Housing Equity Connection

Gilvar Consulting Services Newsletter

April / May 2020

This month’s topic: Equity and Mindfulness in the Time of Crisis

Equity and mindfulness represent two core values that inform my coaching, leadership training, and consultation work.  This month’s newsletter explores why maintaining focus on each is especially important during times of crisis such as the current pandemic.

In a future newsletter I’ll explore why I believe mindfulness represents a critical pathway to working toward equity.  For now, I hope you enjoy the interviews, articles, and other resources that provide strategies for keeping each at the forefront as we collectively work toward ending the pandemic, regardless of our individual role.


The economic relief package in the CARES Act includes over $6 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development to increase communities’ capacity to prevent the spread of coronavirus among three groups disproportionately comprised of People of Color: those living homeless, those at-risk of homelessness, and those with HIV.   This funding represents a necessary but insufficient response given that we know existing systems produce inequitable outcomes. Will we once again look at these populations and say the problems are too hard or too expensive to fix, or will we address systemic drivers and undertake real change? 

In this American Public Health Association blogpost, Rose Englert, Ben King, and I address this question and suggest some action steps for applying a racial equity lens to preventing the spread of coronavirus among homeless and other vulnerable populations. We then argue that the short-term changes in approach that result from leading with equity can be converted into much needed long-term change.

Now more than ever it’s clear that homelessness is a Public Health crisis that requires significant leaps in cross-sector collaboration enabling leaders in Public Health, homeless services, and community health care to better align and integrate their work. The equity lens may provide a helpful catalyst and framework for this collaboration.  If nothing else, it helps us to collectively call out the “too expensive” and “too intractable” excuses as unjust and finally put them to rest.

Other great resources for leading with equity in serving vulnerable populations within the current crisis are available from National Innovation Service, National Alliance to End Homelessness, and Corporation for Supportive Housing.


In a 4/8/20 special episode of C4’s Changing the Conversation podcast series I was interviewed by host Jeff Olivet on the topic of Mindfulness in the Time of Crisis.  The idea for this episode was to offer a mindfulness practice that helped me immensely in working with the stress that I felt working on disaster responses, for example, managing shelter clinics for evacuees of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  I was able to tell some stories that hopefully are relatable for frontline workers in the COVID response and then share a brief guided mindfulness exercise that I hope proves helpful to anyone who is working with increased stress during this pandemic.

Numerous other perspectives on this topic can be found at the Tricycle Magazine site.

Other Articles

City of Dallas Equity Assessment of Affordable Housing Policies

Along with colleagues Christine Campbell and Michele Williams, John conducted a racial equity assessment of the City of Dallas’s affordable housing policies.  The assessment relied on extensive community input and culminated in a presentation of 11 recommendations for change to the Dallas City Council.  The findings and recommendations are summarized in this final report.  Recommendations start on page 8, following the executive summary.

Accelerating Organizational Anti-Racism Work with Adaptive Leadership and Mindful Communication Practices

Transformational change at an organizational or systems level requires both deep listening and the willingness of leaders possessing decision-making authority to collaborate with those most directly impacted by the problems necessitating change. Few leaders I know would dispute this premise in the abstract, but many might struggle to explain in concrete terms how they walk the walk as well as they talk the talk. Moving organizations and communities from words to action around redressing institutionalized racism requires leaders not only to put listening and collaboration skills to the test, but to leap beyond the comfort zone of routine approaches to problem solving. Adaptive leadership and mindful communication practices can provide an excellent platform from which to dive into the deep water of acknowledging racism and other structural forms of oppression as powerful drivers of inequities in the areas of health, housing, and economic advancement.

Cross-silo Partnerships Boldly Tackling Inequities in the Midst of the Pandemic

New COVID-19 hospitalization data shine a stark light on the connection between homelessness and poor health.  The Minnesota Department of Health found that people residing in homeless shelters who were diagnosed with COVID-19 were 4 times more likely to be hospitalized and 3 times more likely to be admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) than the overall population of Minnesota residents with a COVID+ diagnosis.  The hospitalization and ICU rates for people living unsheltered were even worse:  almost 10 times more likely to be hospitalized and 7 times more likely to receive treatment in an ICU.