• Center for Community Change

Advocacy Skillshare

Welcome to our forum for highlighting innovative initiatives from state and local housing and homeless coalitions advocating to increase housing opportunities. The goal of Advocacy Skillshare is to advance cross-pollination of ideas, tactics and strategies that effectively advance housing and homeless advocacy. Have a good experience or idea to share with Advocacy Skillshare? Send it to Michael Anderson.

Community Voices: Collaboration Builds Community, Moves Issues

A creative collaboration between a housing justice organization and two arts organizations produced an event, Uninhabitable, held October 20, 2016 in New Orleans.  At the event, people told their stories of poor living conditions, challenging the norm about who’s to blame for poor housing conditions.   The event was sponsored by The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC), Bring Your Own Stories and Radical Arts & Healing Collective – Colectivo de Radicales Artes y Curación.

GNOFHAC posted on their Facebook page about the event: We laughed so we wouldn’t cry about the conditions so many renters live with in this great city. Lesson learned: We have to stop asking why people don’t leave bad rentals, because often they can’t. We have to start asking why landlords aren’t doing what they should be doing. Stay in touch so those trapped in bad deals with slumlords know they don’t have to stand alone.

Co-producing similar event is part of what Bring Your Own has been doing since it was founded in 2012. In 2016, they co-produced events on worker justice, jobs and healthcare.  Bring Your Own is a live storytelling pop-up series that takes intimate spaces within the New Orleans community. Each month, seven storytellers have seven minutes to respond to a theme. Stories are told live, unscripted, and true to the teller. Storytellers volunteer prior to the event and are judged by three audience members to determine a winner, whose story is guaranteed for radio production.  Winners subsequently choose the next month’s theme. Bring Your Own is a production of Laine Kaplan-Levenson.

GNOFHAC is a nonprofit civil rights organization established in 1995 to eradicate housing discrimination. GNOFHAC’s work throughout Louisiana includes education, investigation and enforcement activities. GNOFHAC is dedicated to fighting housing discrimination because it is an illegal and divisive force that perpetuates poverty, segregation, ignorance, fear and hatred.

According to their website the Radical Arts and Healing Collective (RAHC) “officially” started in January 2016. At co-founding core member Ann-Meredith’s Upper 9th Ward home, they broke bread and drank spicy hot chocolate to begin dreaming, scheming and visioning an intersectional, intergenerational, multiracial arts and healing centered community space rooted in New Orleans, intended to serve the greater Gulf South and beyond to promote transformative and healing justice as well as self-determination through art as a tool to interrupt and transform deep roots of injustice.

By working together, these three organizations were able to use the art of storytelling, a little competition in a creative space making the message and learning about the housing conditions in New Orleans more impactful.

Note:  GNOFHAC is part of a coalition, Healthy Homes Coalition, that has pushed for action on these issues.  They have successfully gotten an ordinance introduced by the New Orleans city council.  The Healthy Homes Ordinance is in process of being voted on at the writing of this piece.

For more information please contact Monika Gerhart-Hambrick, Director of Policy and Communications at GNOFHAC mgerhart@gnofairhousing.org

Alliances Across Issues: Theodore Payne Foundation Partners with the Housing Authority of Los Angeles on Native Flora and Water Conservation

It started as a means to save water in drought-stricken Los Angeles, California.  Last spring the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles came to the Theodore Payne Foundation searching for ways HACLA could save on their water bill and provide interesting environments if they planted native flora for their landscaping of public housing sites.

The Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants was established in 1960 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to the understanding, preservation and use of California native flora.  The Foundation provides a full-service native plant nursery, seed room, book store, art gallery, demonstration gardens and hiking trails open to the public year round.  The Foundation offers classes for adults and families, as well as field trips and classroom programs for children.  More than 250 active volunteers are the backbone of the Foundation and its success in Southern California.


Image courtesy of the Theodore Payne Foundation

So no surprise that HACLA staff, with more than 160 acres of landscaping to manage, recognized that their goal could not be reached without some expertise and commitment.  Their practical approach resulted in partnering with the Theodore Payne Foundation to train HACLA’s landscape crews in native plant horticulture and maintenance with three pilot projects.   Now the Foundation is training more than 50 people and guiding the development of 1.6 acres of pilot gardens at Imperial Courts in Watts, Estrada Courts in Boyle Heights, and San Fernando gardens in Pacoima.

Working with the entire public housing landscaping staff and some residents from the three pilot sites, everyone joined tours of the nursery and demonstration gardens and included basic native plant horticulture and design, along with plant identification and selection.  The final sessions of the six-month program, focuses on developing the skills to establish and maintain the new landscapes.  Participants are excited both about saving water and learning new landscaping skills.  Each pilot site is designing its own gardens, updating their irrigation system, and feeling the satisfaction of meeting new challenges.

Impressed by the success of the pilot program, HACLA invited Theodore Payne Foundation to design the garden at the Boys & Girls club of Mar Vista Gardens, creating a beautiful and enriching environment for the children and all Mar Vista Gardens residents.

For more information, visit:  www.theodorepayne.org

By Mary Brooks, Senior Advisor, Center for Community Change–Housing Trust Fund Project


Community Voices: Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition Creates Voices of Home!

Voices of Home is an on-line story sharing project of the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition which aims to:

  • Empower those living in affordable housing to be leaders, through listening to and sharing resident stories,
  • Break down stigmas that may be held by the general public regarding those receiving or in need of housing assistance through community engagement and conversation,
  • Build community by engaging residents in a project outside their immediate living situation and supporting each other through the story-telling process, and
  • Bridge conversations between residents, policy makers, and community by changing the power dynamic so residents’ voices are heard and accounted for.

Voices of Home consists of interviews with residents living in housing with various public subsidies. The interviews are seen as a tool which the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition and its member organizations can use to advocate for policies benefiting affordable housing and efforts to end homelessness.  The interviews are accessible on the Coalition’s blog and on radio and the stories have already reached a wide audience.

vermontvoices1The theme is “home” and each interview provides unique and personal insights into why home is fundamental to our well-being.  The stories shared through the interviews are embellished with statewide facts usually associated with policy making. VAHC intends to expand on this project through other mediums and community outreach, including a moving art show. To learn more about the project, visit their website here.

This is a clip from the interview with French Brandon, a resident of the Burlington Housing Authority’s Decker Towers in Burlington, VT. In this clip, French discusses the way that home shaped his early childhood, and uses vivid details to paint a brilliant picture of his vermontvoices2life. When talking about home, French opines:  “Home has been a very peculiar notion for me all my life. It’s sort of like something I’ve always sought after but never quite gotten to, like an ever receding will of the wisp, if you will. Or maybe a kind of perfection that one doesn’t ever achieve.”

Take this opportunity to subscribe to the Voices of Home email list in order to receive updates about the latest interviews. To learn more about Voices of Home, contact Corrine Marie Yonce: 803-660-9484.

By Mary Brooks, Senior Advisor, Center for Community Change–Housing Trust Fund Project

Community Voices: Alabama Arise Brings Moral Urgency, Community Voices to Housing Trust Fund Campaign

Having a diverse set of community organizations and representatives voicing support for public investment in affordable housing is a source of strength for any housing trust fund campaign, state or local.  When elected leaders, decision makers and the media hear from a wide range of stakeholders and community perspectives, advocates have an opportunity to shift the conversation for creating or expanding a housing trust fund from a narrow single-issue to a broad community concern. Particularly powerful are the perspectives of the faith community and community based organizations, who bring moral and personal urgency to the debate.

The campaign to dedicate revenue to the Alabama Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) got a boost in September when Alabama Arise selected the Trust Fund as a priority issue for the 2017 state legislative session. Alabama Arise is a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of 150 congregations and community groups and hundreds of individuals united in their belief that low-income people are suffering because of state policy decisions.

#FundtheAHTF: Majadi Baruti and fellow Arise members indicate their support for legislation dedicating revenue to the Alabama Housing Trust Fund.

#FundtheAHTF: Majadi Baruti and fellow Arise members indicate their support for legislation dedicating revenue to the Alabama Housing Trust Fund.

Arise members voted to maintain the Alabama Housing Trust Fund as a legislative priority along with an adequate state budget, tax reform, “ban the box” policy, death penalty reform, minimum wage, payday/title lending reform and public transportation policy.  The 2017 Issue Priorities guide describes Arise’s position on the need to dedicate revenue to the Alabama Housing Trust Fund:

Everyone needs a place to call home. But too many hard-working Alabamians can’t find safe, affordable housing. The state Housing Trust Fund (HTF) was created in 2012 to build, rehabilitate and maintain housing for low-income families. Permanent HTF funding would create jobs and make home a reality for thousands of families, veterans, and people with disabilities in Alabama. Arise will seek dedicated state support for the HTF to expand affordable housing options, especially in rural areas.

As a priority issue, Arise will lobby for dedicated funding for the Trust Fund in Montgomery as well as activate their membership across the state to support revenue legislation.  “Having Arise by our side in the legislative hallways is critical to our success and we are thrilled that the Arise membership selected the AHTF as a legislative priority for 2017,” stated Ashley Kerr of the Low Income Housing Coalition of Alabama, the organization leading the dedicated revenue campaign.

That Arise is a champion for the AHTF is nothing new. Arise members made the creation of a state housing trust fund a top priority throughout the multi-year campaign that culminated in victory in 2012, and have been core supporters for the push for dedicated revenue in the 2014, 15 and 16 sessions.  Arise was also a founding member of the Low Income Housing Coalition of Alabama in 2007.

Arise’s Carol Gundlach explains: ‘Arise believes that everyone deserves an opportunity to get ahead. Investing in the Housing Trust Fund would help ensure that thousands of Alabama families have a solid foundation on which to build a better life and a brighter future for their children and grandchildren.”

To read more about Alabama Arise 2017 legislative priorities, click here or go to http://www.arisecitizens.org/

By Michael Anderson, Director, Center for Community Change—Housing Trust Fund Project