Peter Toepfer says
Center for Housing and Health’s
Racial Equity Action Plan
is only the first step in tackling homelessness in Chicago

Peter Toepfer, Executive Director, Center for Housing and Health February 15, 2022

“One of the hallmarks of White Supremacy is fixing the problem and trying to directly come to a solution rather than sit with the discomfort. Rather than taking the time to really do things right and allow for different levels of work.”

When asked about his experience in developing the Center for Housing and Health (CHH) and AIDS Foundation Chicago’s (AFC) Racial Equity Action Plan (REAP), Peter Toepfer, the Executive Director, opened up about the amount of patience and collaboration that was required to produce such an ambitious, but necessary plan for the future of the organization. The Center for Housing and Health (CHH), AFC, and Morten Group LLC worked together since the Fall of 2020 to develop intentional strategies for three main goals that the action plan entails:

1. AFC and CHH will prioritize the work of racial equity by fostering an intentional organizational culture of inclusion and belonging for all staff and board members.

2. AFC and CHH will embed racial equity into all administrative and organizational practices.

3. AFC and CHH will embed racial equity within our programs, services, and policy priorities, while remaining transparent and honest about our progress toward achieving racial equity.

The plan is a tool for improving and creating more equitable culture and processes at CHH and AFC (CHH is a subsidiary of AFC). As an organization that tackles issues contributing to homelessness and health inequities in Chicagoland, it is impossible for CHH to ignore the intersectionality between these challenges and racial equity. However, REAP is not aiming to be the sole solution for cultural competency within this organization. Peter Toepfer understands that more work is ahead, and that feedback from community stakeholders is encouraged to improve future initiatives.

“We’ve all been here before, but especially our staff of color and they were deeply disappointed when plans have not led to changes. So, this is something that we need to continue to be very conscious of and clear about. When there is skepticism there is an even greater need for higher levels of transparency. Our ability to follow through on this plan is going to be a major test of who we are going forward.”

One objective Peter Toepfer is most excited for at CHH is reducing racial disparities in program outcomes, particularly using the data collected as a mirror of how participants are experiencing their programs. What story is the data telling? If the desired outcomes are not there, what can be done to correct the course? To Toepfer, it is important to recognize that regardless of intention, becoming more client-centered in the outcome will shift the power so that our communities and participants are the ones driving each step of the process against homelessness.

“The Racial Equity Action plan has inward-facing, and outward-facing elements, and both are critical components for reaching that vision of ensuring that all our neighbors have a place to call home.”

Read the full Racial Equity Action Plan here. Access the glossary for language regarding the plan here.

If you have any questions or feedback regarding the plan, reach out to CHH on their website.