Cultural Competency and Responsiveness


In housing and homeless services, we serve an incredibly diverse range of people from different religious backgrounds, races and ethnicity, and across the spectrum of age and experience as well as gender and sexual preference. Cultural Competence is the knowledge and understanding of the diverse and complex needs of people from various cultural groups. Cultural competency is a continuum of practice that involves acknowledging cultural differences, identify gaps in treatment, and then tailoring your behavior and the services you provide to meet the needs of all groups by hearing from the groups and involving them in changes and decision-making. Maintaining cultural humility challenges us to learn from those we work with and serve, reserve judgement, and actively bridge cultural divides. Cultural responsiveness is when services are framed by understanding of culture, cultural competency, and cultural humility creating a cultural responsive foundation for families and communities to be engaged and supported utilizing the strengths of their diversity and cultural dynamics. When culturally responsive, programs and services evolve appropriately to engage families and communities in the design, delivery, and evaluation of effective and appropriate services. Think of cultural responsiveness as a tool to ensure the inclusion of various points of views and experiences. It often requires that those in a position of power take stock of their role in society and the advantages that may come with it and encourages the learning and understanding of other groups to foster respect, trust, and inclusion of that understanding in every step of decision-making.


Diversity among Connecticut Youth experiencing Homelessness and Housing Instability

Overall, the demographics of homelessness are generally similar to the overall population. Connecticut has significant diversity in race,ethnicity, age, gender, sexuality, and background in its general and homeless population and providers should be prepared to serve this diverse range of clients.

In the 2015 CT Youth Count over 3,000 youth were identified as homeless and unstably housed in Connecticut. Of those, more than 40% indicated they had no permanent place to live for over a year. Youth, which compose roughly 15-20% of clients served in Connecticut, are highly diverse; 38.6 % identified their race as “black” and 36% identified ethnicity as Hispanic. In addition to being racially or ethnically diverse, these 25% of “literally homeless” youth self-designated as part of the LGBTQ community. With so much variety in background and culture, openness and a non-judgmental frame of mind is key to effectively serving this population.


Racial Inequities in Housing and Homelessness webinar series

Webinar 1: Race and Housing: Utilizing the Past to Understand the Present

Recorded Webinar

Webinar Slides

Webinar 2: A Community Response to Racial Inequities in Housing

Recorded Webinar

Webinar Slides


 Additional Resources

Cultural Competency Training PowerPoint

This training on Cultural Competence is from the Department of Child and Family Services. 

Cultural Competency “Who Am I Poem” Activity

Activity from DCF Cultural Competency training on personal identify and understanding our own cultural background. 

Tool for Organizational Self-Assessment Related to Racial Equity

This tool was created by All Hands Raised and the Coalition of Communities of Color and is designed to help you, as an organizational leader, gather a holistic snapshot of your organizations’ practices and policies as they relate to racial equity.

Implicit Bias Test

This test was developed by scientists from Harvard University, University of Virginia, and University of Washington and measures the strength of associations between concepts (e.g., black people, gay people) and evaluations (e.g., good, bad) or stereotypes (e.g., athletic, clumsy).

Related Videos:

Cracking the Codes: Joy DeGruy “A Trip to the Grocery Store”

Imagine a World Where Being “Gay” is The Norm: Short Film

Color of Justice

Race Baiting 101: Matthew Cooke