I believe it is safe to say that – in some capacity – our lives were collectively changed forever in 2020. Personally, I can recall a specific phone call that I took while walking the dogs in March of 2020 that would change the course of my life forever. That phone call came from a dear friend who is dedicated to bettering the community at all costs. The coronavirus had reached the United States and we were just beginning to wrestle with the reality that we would soon be navigating a pandemic. “It’s time for us to start a mutual aid group in the midlands,” she said. “This pandemic is going to affect the lives of so many underserved individuals. Simply put, a lot of people are going to need help!”
Her words still resonate with me today. Almost prophetic in nature, she knew the onset of difficulties that were going to be amplified by the pandemic for a large portion of our community. We hit the ground running, joining together a group of students, retirees, working professionals, activists, organizers, and anyone who wanted to be a part of mutual aid efforts in the Midlands. We started a hotline, compiled resources, and began helping people who needed food, shelter, clothing, utility assistance, and so much more.
What hit me the hardest throughout this venture was the reality that housing is no longer considered a human right. Perhaps it never was. But, when I started assisting individuals through the process of impending eviction, working with people making decisions between paying their utility bills and paying their mortgage, I could no longer live in blissful ignorance. I became obsessed with housing, researching the disparities in the middle of the night, joining the City of Columbia’s Affordable Housing Task Force, working with local organizations, and trying to be a part of the solution to a problem that is plaguing our state. A problem that is only getting worse.
That is why I am here. When Lauren approached me with the opportunity to serve as the Director of Haven Home, my decision was made before I even got back to the car. When nearly half of the US is cost-burdened, affordable housing shortages have reached 7 million, and wage growth is not consistent with housing costs, we can no longer live in that blissful ignorance I mentioned above. The time to act is now. We are taking action, with the confidence that our market-based solution will work and the passion to make it work. So, here is my commitment as the Director of Haven Home: to stand in solidarity with our community so that every person has equal access to a home. Not just a house – a home. I hope you will join me in that mission.
Dylan Gunnels, Director of Haven Home