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The Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness (MCAH) is hosting the third annual Homelessness Advocacy Day on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. With your help and enthusiasm, this Homelessness Advocacy Day will advocate for improved policy to prevent and end homelessness. This year we will be educating Michigan policy makers on our 2019-2020 legislative priorities: legislation to increase access and decreasing barriers to affordable rental units and strengthening funding for homeless services and affordable housing opportunities. Register for Homelessness Advocacy Day before the April 8th deadline, and continue reading to learn about how you can advocate effectively during our event or on your own!

New public opinion polling by Opportunity Starts At Home indicates that 91% of people in the United States say stable affordable housing is very important or one of the most important things that affect people’s security and well-being. Yet the Michigan legislature has not prioritized solutions to increase affordable housing opportunities, and there are fewer advocates than the issue demands.

Increased affordable housing creates lasting effects like improved well-being, reliable resources, finances, and stability, and makes a positive difference on the local economy. Creating advocacy opportunities through an inclusive, community-oriented process in collaboration with community agencies also creates a larger positive impact on the community and housing access. When community members come together and advocate with a unified message, they can have a powerful influence on legislators and decision-makers to create meaningful change.

Advocacy can be a scary concept if you haven’t done it before, but it doesn’t have to be. At the heart of community advocacy is the ability to share your story and your community needs with someone who has the power to make change. Communities across Michigan are prioritizing the need for increased access to affordable housing, and MCAH is working to bring that momentum to the state capitol. Here’s how you can prepare yourself for state level advocacy, as part of MCAH’s upcoming advocacy day or on your own.

First, be prepared with reliable federal and state facts on housing and homelessness, as well as personal stories. A great starting place to get informed is through reliable news sites (New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, BBC), which all can be followed on Twitter and other social media sites. Attending your local community and city council meetings can also help you get informed. To learn about MCAH’s state priorities and our talking points for advocacy day, attend our prep webinar on April 9, 2019.  

After getting informed, make sure you know your state senators and representatives, as well as what issues and policies they represent. At this point, conduct outreach to friends, neighbors, groups, and organizations you are involved with about the importance of your issue and encourage them to help you educate your area’s legislators. Lobbying and advocacy through meetings, emails, letters, and phone calls to legislators, especially as a group effort, helps create awareness of community concerns that legislators should address. On advocacy day, MCAH will assist by setting up meetings with your legislator, but you can also reach out through constituent meetings in your district or other opportunities to connect with your elected officials.

Brann

Advocates from the 2018 Homelessness Advocacy Day meet with Michigan Representative Tommy Brann.

Once you’re in your meeting, it is important to remember to respect everyone’s perspective, know your end goals, and know your elected officials and community resources. Remember to provide some data, followed by a 1 -2 minute story related to the issue at hand; short and sweet helps keep a legislator’s interest. A story could involve a summary of your experience or a client’s experience. If the story involves someone else, be discreet about their information; do not use their name or other identifying information. During your meeting, also give time for the legislator to ask questions, make comments, or express their interest. Note if they would like to stay in contact or would like to be involved with making a change. Always remember to thank your legislator for their time to learn more about what you are advocating.

While Michigan is not the only state in need of improved housing affordability for low-income and homeless populations, it is a state in need of solutions for these communities now. We encourage you to get involved with local efforts and to share your concerns with your state legislators. MCAH’s Homelessness Advocacy Day is a great way to this, whether you are a seasoned advocate or new to speaking with elected offices.

Please register for MCAH’s Homelessness Advocacy Day today! Registration closes April 8.

By Caroline Croom, MCAH Public Policy Intern. You can contact her at: ccroom@mihomeless.org. Additional questions or concerns can be directed to Laurel Burchfield // lburchfield@mihomeless.org.

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