Melissa Jones is a champion for social equity. As the Executive Director of the Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative or BARHII for short, she has executed extensive work in municipal government and non-profits, in the Bay Area’s large and small cities. BARHII is a grantee of the BUILD Health Challenge, one of our key partners here at All In. Melissa is an active community member in Oakland and also serves on the Association of Bay Area Government’s Regional Planning Committee, which advises on regional planning issues. Before joining BARHII, Melissa served as Senior Program Officer at Boston Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC), where she launched and ran its Resilient Communities, Resilient Families Initiative.
Joining Melissa on the episode is Cristal Little. Cristal is a Vallejo Housing Justice Organizer for Urban Habitat. Cristal works closely with Vallejo residents and community organizations to develop a comprehensive housing justice policy agenda for the city. She helps raise community awareness on tenant rights, affordable housing and preservation, and alternative land and housing strategies. Prior to joining Urban Habitat, Cristal worked in municipal governance, with more than six years of experience in a variety of roles.
Podcast Host Miriam Castro is joined by Jones and Little to discuss how they have been educating their Bay Area communities about rent moratoriums and equitable state-funding. They also detailed the benefits of their data-sharing collaboration during COVID. This powerful and timely conversation touches on many aspects of housing justice work, including aligning equity throughout decision-making, consistent community engagement, and the power of women in leadership.
- Connect with BARHII and Urban Habitat
- Learn more about Melissa Jones & Cristal Little
- Read up on Housing Justice in Vallejo, and other communities during the pandemic in our All In COVID Publication: What We Learned From the First Wave.
Takeaways from the Interview
In the words of Melissa Jones and Cristal Little…
1. Equity must be a prerequisite in decision-making within the public health space.
” There is just a power to move our whole set of decision-making towards equity. And I think that we’ve needed that a lot this year. We’ve needed it in conversations about the police. We’ve needed it in conversations about budget for Covid relief. We’ve needed it in conversations about ensuring that people can stay housed when their jobs are shut down during the pandemic. We need it now to talk also about vaccine access.”
2. Messaging was a key tool the team used to express the ground-breaking importance of the eviction moratorium for their communities.
” COVID was really high in our community and so one of the messaging strategies here was if you really care about peoples’ health and you really want them to come out of this situation alive, we need to make sure that they’re being able to at least shelter in place. The way to do that is that you pass the eviction moratorium today.”
3. Being a leader during this time is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and helping your team see it too.
” I think that the role for a leader is to remind people that when things are hard it doesn’t mean you’re wrong or you’re failing. It means you’re persevering and to be able to help people push forward past the adversity to the opportunity on the other side.”
4. Partnerships are pivotal to crucial problem-solving.
“I think that the partnerships that come together that help us understand peoples’ experience, help us share that experience through data so that we can see the scale of the issues that need to be addressed, and then partnership strategies that help us identify policy or partnership solutions, or community-based solutions and volunteer solutions are all really important for long term stabilities for communities.”