Last year, DWC participated in Corporation for Supportive Housing’s Lobby Day in Sacramento. Dozens of advocates from affordable housing agencies across California came together for a day of lobbying at the State Capitol for the CA Homes & Jobs Act.
We know that the women we serve are the best advocates for why permanent supportive housing works so we invited resident Vikki V. to represent the organization at the State Capitol.
Her testimony of homelessness and mental illness before key policy makers had tremendous impact on those listening. For Vikki, it cemented her passion for advocacy to help other women out of homelessness.
Here are 5 things we learned from our trip to Sacramento:
5. We are the experts.
One of the most powerful moments for me was listening to Vikki share her story in front of a group of people made up of policy staff and other resident advocates.
I knew Vikki was a little nervous, as this was her first time speaking to elected officials and their staff, but she did splendidly because she was the expert of her story. She beautifully and simply shared her story and passionately made a case for why funding is needed for more affordable housing.
4. Keep our story short and sweet.
Elected officials and their staff are often busy and juggling multiple issues that are important to their many constituents. We knew that having an audience before each office could vary in time and length, and we needed to be prepared for that.
Vikki learned to share her story in a few minutes without lessening its power. She was succinct, concise, and put so much emotion behind every word so that every word counted.
3. Be the advocate to your advocate.
When Vikki and I flew to Sacramento, I knew my role was to support Vikki on her big day. I managed all our travel arrangements, our breakfast at the airport, directions to the Capitol, and to be her cheerleader.
When one representative’s office very kindly let us know that the odds were stacked against our favor, it put a pall over the group’s buoyant mood. So, Vikki and I took a walk outside on the beautifully manicured lawns of the Capitol and Vikki shared her frustrations about the state of housing in LA and we took the time to debrief the day and our state of mind.
2. It’s not all business.
The day was jam-packed with what seemed like back-to-back meetings with different representatives' offices. While we spent a lot of time waiting in really nice offices and lobby spaces, we were also nervous and tired from our early morning flight from LAX to Sacramento. It was important for us to take some breaks in between – a nice lunch, a fresh breath of air on the steps of the Capitol, photos like tourists, and even some wandering down halls to try to catch a glimpse of the Governor.
1. We can’t do it alone.
One of the biggest lessons of the day was seeing the power of dozens of resident advocates and hard-working staff from state-wide housing agencies coming together to lobby. Vikki and I met residents who were advocating for affordable housing for seniors, low-income families, individuals with special needs, and of course for homeless individuals and families. We realized that this is a fight bigger than the two of us, we were proud to do our part.
But it can’t take just one organization, or one individual to end homelessness. It’s going to take all of us, from women like Vikki who have lived the experience first-hand, to dedicated staff at agencies across the state, to elected officials, and to supporters like you – the constituents of each district who care about women living on the streets. We're all in it together to create change.
Carla María Guerrero
Advocacy & Media Coordinator