MCAH is working to increase awareness around individuals experiencing homelessness and the agencies and shelters that serve them. We believe that our policy-makers, from local to state to federal, can make more informed decisions once they get to know a little more about the people we serve. As part of this effort, we asked the Homeless Action Network of Detroit (HAND) “Why do you advocate?”
A few years ago, the Homeless Action Network of Detroit (HAND) partnered with the University of Detroit Mercy Theatre Group to sponsor a play, “Unheard Voices: Homeless Monologues.” The goal of the play was to present the voices, lives, visions, hopes, dreams, pains and spirits of the local homeless community on stage for the audience to recognize and acknowledge. Though visible to a community, those who find themselves seeking homeless services are a group of diverse individuals with various needs, abilities, and acuities who often are not acknowledged. As the lead agency for the Continuum of Care (CoC) serving Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park since 1996, HAND embraces the value of advocacy, particularly as an opportunity to give voice to those who would otherwise go unheard.
Advocating on behalf of the community we serve is crucial! If you do not demand it, people will assume you don’t need it.
Because advocacy is a priority and a necessity for the community, HAND annually participates in Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. By taking our local concerns to the larger policy making body, we can act as liaison between our community and key stakeholders who can assist us in ending homelessness in the Detroit CoC. As an outcome of our national and local advocacy efforts HAND is in the position to serve as the lead resource for advocacy; community organizing as well as policy analysis and education in our continuum. The opportunity to build relationships with legislators is vital to the success of HAND’s advocacy efforts.
In November 2016, Amelia Allen joined the HAND staff as the Continuum of Care Coordinator. Through the CoC Coordinator role, HAND has expanded its advocacy efforts to partner and support local citizen and consumer run initiatives who aim to address homeless service provision and inadequate resources. A few initiatives HAND is currently supporting are; increasing outreach efforts to engage and house those who are chronically homeless, promoting the relationship between City Council and local advocacy groups in establishing the Detroit Housing Trust Fund with special consideration for those who live at 0-30% Area Median Income (AMI), and connecting a consumer led advocacy group with the individuals who can affect shelter policy. By acting as a bridge for these consumer led and consumer focused organizations to other allies, HAND supports the National Association of Social Workers’ (NASW) values on dignity and worth of a client and importance of human relationships.
Believing in the power of collective impact, HAND partners with several national organizations on policy priorities, including the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH), the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), and the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH). There are also several valuable state-level agencies which provide leadership, including the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness (MCAH), the Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP), and the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM). As these organizations highlight issues that align with our policy priorities, HAND mobilizes the local response by informing, equipping, and empowering the membership of the Detroit CoC to join in the advocacy work.
Along with partnering with advocacy groups, in 2016 The Detroit Continuum of Care began to cultivate a Development and Communications committee of the Board. This committee’s aim is to plan for special events, including but not limited to Homeless Awareness Week events, coordinate publicity, seek out financial resources for any identified needs, and advocacy. The Detroit CoC also supports consumer based input and self-advocacy by inviting individuals who are currently or were formerly homeless to become members of the Board of Directors. The expertise offered by those who have lived experience as an individual facing homelessness in the system we wish to affect positive change in is intricate to shaping our perspective. Their guidance allows us to never forget the importance of advocacy, knowing firsthand how pivotal it is in the success of those who are living a life which is mirrored by their past.
–Guest post by Amelia Allen, HAND Continuum of Care Coordinator. You can contact her at: email@example.com