Above: Our advocates receive their scrolls at the Board of Supervisors meeting.
Our first cohort of DWC Advocates has graduated from the pilot Advocates Program, launched in May 2016! As we celebrate their accomplishments, we look back at their journeys during the program and their future goals.
On August 16, the Advocates were presented with a commendation at the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting to celebrate their graduation. The women were presented scrolls by Supervisor Hilda Solis, who commended them on their hard work and dedication to ending homelessness for women.
Above: Supervisor Hilda Solis recognizes the advocacy work of each woman. From left to right: Denise Smith, Amiyoko Shabazz, Pamela Walls, Supervisor Solis, Abigail Malecki, Francine Andrade, DWC CEO Anne Miskey
At DWC, we believe the most successful and empowering way to advocate for change is by partnering with the women we serve. The newly designed Advocates Program trains participants to become strong advocates for themselves and their community, while advancing DWC’s mission to end homelessness for women.
Over the past several months, the five participants in the pilot cohort — Francine, Amiyoko, Denise, Abigail, and Pamela — have contributed to fighting for social justice and affecting policy changes through sharing their lived experiences of homelessness.
Amiyoko reflects, “By advocating and being educated I get to implement everything I learned. I get to stand in front of these people and be very confident and passionate in my beliefs, and share my story. For the most part, by sharing my story with other people, and advocating, I have been able to heal from my own trauma, my own pain.”
“I get to stand in front of these people and be very confident and passionate in my beliefs, and share my story."
Throughout the program, exciting guest speakers such as USC PhD candidate and social justice advocate Missy Bird and Transparency Officer of the City Administrative Office Cielo Castro contributed to the training sessions on story telling, public speaking, meeting with elected officials, the City's budget process, and other topics.
Above: Francine and Pamela meet with Senator Holly Mitchell
Through various speaking and role playing exercises, the women learned to successfully put these skills into practice.
Amiyoko and Pamela were in attendance at the Mayor’s budget signing this year, where Amiyoko shared her experience as a way to reinforce the importance of the budget’s new strategy to end homelessness. Denise spoke about the necessity of mental health reform in an interview with NPR. Abigail, a strong advocate for the trans community, attended the Mayor’s Roll Call to connect with service providers from the LA area. Francine, who has been a DWC resident for six years, advocated for affordable housing legislation at Sacramento’s Lobby Day.
At the final session, the advocates reflected on their growth throughout the program. As an advocate, Abigail is most excited to affect changes in “housing, health care, and rights for the transgender community” while Denise says she wants to advocate for “more support for mental health issues.”
As a group, the Advocates also had the opportunity to meet with State Senator Holly Mitchell. Senator Mitchell, who hosts “Coffee with Holly” sessions monthly, listened to the women’s questions, and made them feel comfortable speaking in front of politicians. Pamela, who also serves on the Advisory Board, remembered feeling that, “Senator Mitchell was very welcoming. I could ask her anything.”
“Senator Mitchell was very welcoming. I could ask her anything.”
Above: Advocates and staff meet for their first session
DWC's PR & Policy Coordinator Rachel Kassenbrock, expressed her excitement seeing “each member of this program become amazing advocates for themselves, for the Center, and for other women. I've loved watching them realize how powerful they are and how effective their stories will be in making real change."
As the program welcomes its next cohort in the fall, newer participants will train and work with the graduated Advocates to be part of the fight to end homelessness for women.
We look forward to seeing these five passionate and committed women become unstoppable forces for change!
Join us in congratulating our graduating DWC advocates in the comments!