Home is a Human Need. Is it a Right?

The Covid-19 pandemic has everything to do with home. It has struck at the very heart of home, in multiple ways, and Americans are struggling.

Sure, it has forced most of us to stay home, but that’s not really the problem.

The pandemic is attacking our fundamental needs. Possibly our rights, depending on how you look at it, but certainly our needs.

Home, in the most fundamental sense is where our essential needs are met: shelter, food, safety, love, belonging, and a sense of worth.

These same things correspond to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.[1] Remember that? The pyramid diagramming the most essential needs of all people? Maslow’s pyramid illustrates the most basic needs at the bottom and progresses up to higher needs. As each level of need is met, the next level becomes possible to achieve.

At the very bottom, the most essential of all human needs, are physiological: the need for food, water, and shelter. This is home at its most primary level, devoid of the delightful details we love. Home is the place where we are housed, where we sleep and where we are fed. In the Western world, we expect our own bed, a couch, or even a mattress on the floor to regularly lay our head. We assume home is where we have enough food to fill our bellies, where we will never go hungry, and where we receive proper nutrition that supports our physical growth.

Closely tied to this most basic need for shelter and food is the need for safety. A house, in providing a place to rest and come in from the cold, is meant to protect us from the elements and dangers of the outside world. By all considerations, home should be a place not only where we eat and sleep but also a place that is safe: a shelter protecting us from harm. The idea that home is a safe place, should be safe, is so fundamental that the prospect of it not being safe seems unacceptable.

The Covid-19 pandemic strikes at the very heart of home. Our food supplies are threatened. Flour, and even beans, are in short supply. Meat packing plants are closing. Forget our previous fears about toilet paper, how will we eat? How will we survive?

Our homes are no longer safe. For those who live with domestic violence, home hasn’t been safe for a long time.[2] Others are already deeply afraid of outside threats. 42% of American adults have a gun for protection and two-thirds of those own more than one.[3]  Americans are currently spending over $45 billion on home security systems, a market which is expected to grow to over $75 billion by 2023.[4]

But security systems and guns can’t protect us from Covid-19. This virus can enter our home unseen and undetected. Life is scary enough when the danger exists “out there,” but when a simple trip to get groceries or a walk outside for exercise can mean escorting illness or even death into our homes, where we expect to be safe… this can take our emotions over the top. Every single one of us is experiencing this stress.

But for some Americans, that threat is theoretical. Sure, there’s the possibility that the virus could enter their homes and kill them. But for them, their home is already in jeopardy. The threat is much more concrete. And much more immediate.

With no income, how will they pay the rent, or the mortgage (if they’re lucky enough to have one)? They don’t have savings. They don’t have retirement funds. They can’t work from home. If they stay home, there’s no money. No money means no shelter. No money means no food.

Those that are willing to take the risk of reopening are those that can’t afford the risk of not. If they don’t work, they can’t survive. They can’t pay the rent. They can’t pay for food. They can’t take care of their families.

We can’t see the virus, but we can see this. We can see homelessness and hunger. Collectively, as a country, we look away. No wonder these Americans are angry.

America is already a nation of lonely, depressed people.[5] People who don’t feel loved, who don’t feel valued, who are struggling to fit in. Even more so during this pandemic, those who live paycheck to paycheck are the expendables. The people we take for granted. The people who make it possible for the rest of us to indulge in our privilege: our meals out, our trash picked up, our hair cut and our nails done. The luxury of shopping for things we don’t really need. We may say “Thank You,” and we may even call them heroes, but all that means nothing if, as a country, we are willing to let them go hungry. If we are willing to let them lose their homes. If we are unwilling to provide them a safety net. If we unwilling to provide them affordable healthcare.

Home is a safe shelter where we are nurtured and fed. Where everyone matters and is loved. Too many Americans are without that home.

Home is most certainly a basic human need. In America, in the 21st Century, might we agree it deserves to be a basic human right?

America. Land of the free, home of the brave. Personally, I don’t think Americans should have to be “warriors” just to have a home.


[1] Designed by Psychologist Abraham Maslow in 1943

[2] It is estimated that 40 million Americans live with violence inside their homes. Incidents of violence are growing – and becoming more severe – as people are forced to stay inside. See factsheets produced by NCADV, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

[3] See “7 facts about guns in the U.S.” by John Gramlich and Katherine Schaeffer. Oct 2019. 

[4] “Home security system market to grow at 10.40% CAGR from 2018 to 2023.” PRNewswire. New York, Sept 4, 2018 

[5] 50% of Americans feel lonely. See Cigna’s study on this: https://www.multivu.com/players/English/8294451-cigna-us-loneliness-survey/


One Comment on “Home is a Human Need. Is it a Right?

  1. Pingback: Not Every Mom Is A Good Mother – Jan Peppler HOME

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