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Building our own Leadership Articles

Deepen Leadership to Build a Housing Movement

Building our own Leadership

“The cross train demonstrated to me first-hand the power groups can have when they combine their talents and resources,” wrote Thomas Wright RUN resident leader from CHP in San Francisco.

CCC’s Housing Trust Fund Project along with the lead organizers for California’s Resident United Network (RUN) and Washington’s Resident Action Project (RAP) led a four-day training for twenty top leaders from the respective resident organizing networks in Federal Way, Washington.  The training had two main objectives: first, reflect on and build leadership qualities and secondly, skill building sessions on meeting facilitation, voter registration, tabling, phone banking, door knocking, and art, culture and organizing.

RUN and RAP leaders at the cross train

RUN is a project of Housing California; RAP is a project of Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund; and both projects are a partnership with the HTFProject.  These two state organizations are committed to building and bolstering a housing justice movement through organizing residents who live in affordable homes, those experiencing housing instability or homelessness as well as non-profit developers and service staff into a powerful network that can bring the changes needed to state policy and implementation.

One of the HTFProject’s roles with RUN and RAP has been leadership development through by creating curriculum and providing opportunities for leaders to grow and thrive.  RUN and RAP have held trainings, popular education sessions as well as skill building opportunities such as meeting facilitation, lobbying, and voter registration.   At the outset of developing training for the resident organizing groups has been to provide a deep leadership and skills enhancement opportunities for resident leaders and staff.   This year, RUN and RAP both had important dates on their fall calendars making this perfect opportunity to put the early idea into action.   The idea of doing a cross train with the two groups was hatched.

Taking a page out of other organizing traditions, the HTFProject developed a four day, in-depth training with the goal to help leaders deepen both their hard and soft skills on leadership.  One exercise was on leadership styles such as Visionary, Strategic, Ethical, Task or Process leaders (thanks to Wellstone Action).  Participants talked about what style they resonated the most with and the one that was a challenge.  We discussed how all of the styles are needed for a strong team, and how awareness of each other’s styles facilitates understanding and communication amongst the team.  Another morning we did an anti-oppression exercise that focused on how we all have privilege and oppression on a spectrum depending on the “ism” that we are considering.  From there we dove into developing policies with a lens of “anti-oppression”.  Many time policies are created that benefit the majority but harm a marginalized group.  Leaders have to be aware of that as they develop affordable housing policy.

RAP leaders register voters, recruit for RAP

In the afternoons, RUN and RAP members practiced hard skills of voter registration, through tabling and door knocking and then put their new skills immediately in action first tabling at King County libraries, and then knocking on more than 1200 doors in south Seattle and Bellevue affordable housing developments.  One of the development that was door-knocked was adjacent to the Microsoft campus.  Many of the residents there were quite worried about rent increases and displacement.  They were super excited to be connected to RAP.  In the evening, we ran a phone bank making more than 300 calls to recruit attendees from RAP’s summer listening sessions and other partners to the RAP’s inaugural statewide Summit that will help decide the policies and direction for RAP in 2018.   In all three activities, RAP and RUN members recruited people to attend RAP’s upcoming Summit, registered voters and collected voter pledge cards.

The training ended with a reflection on art and culture in organizing with leaders coming up with creative ideas to use art and cultural as well as how to engage artists in our movement.  True to putting ideas to practice, the group self-selected three art activities:  writing, visual art and music.  This powerful section allowed participants to use their talents and think about creating space for healing, reflection and fun in our organizing.  The week concluded with a spontaneous dance party from the music cohort.  They did a re-worked version of Kool in the Gang’s Celebration entitled “Housing Justice Now /Liberation,” followed by every person doing “Vision Stand” (that is their vision for RUN or RAP and affordable housing justice) that brought the house down—tears, cheers, hugs and laughter.  Folks left the cross train tired but energized.  The first request was “we need more cross trains!  At least two a year.”

The activities and skill building were significant, but as important was the camaraderie between the two groups. The shared feeling of the groups was that together we are building a movement.  At the conclusion of the training, the intent to stay connected was clear: RAP leaders want to hear more the upcoming RUN regional meetings and leadership retreat.  The RUN folks are anxious to hear how their work for turn-out to the inaugural RAP statewide Summit helped attendance.  This result is one of those immeasurable results as can be seen in responses from the cross train participants:

As Rosie Ulloa, staff from City Heights CDC in San Diego said, “It was very valuable for me to be able to interface with other leaders doing the same work in other areas and regions. I think what was most powerful is being driven around by a [Washington] leader who was homeless [yet] a fierce advocate for [people experiencing] homelessness….How powerful this meeting was for me.”

RAP leader Mindy Woods spoke about the immediate relevance for her,  “I absolutely LOVED the cross train because I learn so much from each person’s style, points of interest, approaches and effective communication! It made me be a better facilitator for the Summit for sure!”

The cross training taught me more about what successful organizing looks like beyond California. I also realized more that affordable housing is a national crisis, and the opportunity to receive training from champions of affordable housing was invaluable. As someone who held his first regional meeting within weeks after the cross training, I was much more prepared to lead my own training than if I had not gone. 10/10 would do again,” wrote SCANPH organizer Michael Menjivar.

The cross training of RAP & RUN transmitted the hope, passion and love each leader brings to the work we are doing for the homeless and housing crisis…The last session was powerful & fun and brought closure and healing. Leadership in our advocacy is not for the weak, having homeless leaders and residents in our training in the work we do is unique and powerful. I’ve strengthen my voice thanks to the cross training, inspired to keep working and leading for our friends without homes,” said RUN leader Miriam Rodriguez.

The power and presence of these two emerging networks was poetry in movement!  I learned an incredible amount from the expertise of the trainers, facilitators, and resident leadership.  There is no replacement for ground training to elevate and excite power building and civic participation.  A valuable and memorable experience.  I hope this will be offered in the future.  Thank you so very much,” said Constance Slider-Pierre, Director of Organizing & Community Engagement of Housing California.

Kristina Nielander, RAP Organizer, sums up the power of building leadership for a movement, “The opportunity to be together with RAP and RUN at the cross train made the potential of RAP in Washington state feel so real given the recent successes and wins of RUN. On top of the opportunity to build new skills together and do a ton of outreach and turnout support for the Summit, we got to learn from each other and be inspired by each other’s work, which ultimately helps us to keep fueling our movement.”  

By Katy Heins, Senior Organizer

Interfaith Communities Bring Affordable Housing into the Worship Space

Building our own Leadership

For many communities of faith, advocacy has been a long-standing practice. For Interfaith Communities United for Affordable Housing (ICU), a part of the larger, secular East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO), the annual Housing Sabbath is an important opportunity to continue their work supporting communities and advocating for access to more equitable and affordable housing. The importance of affordable housing (and the lack thereof) is staggeringly apparent in the Bay Area, where from 2010 to 2014 median rents increased 38% while middle and low-income workers experienced inflation adjusted wage decreases of almost 5% during a similar period. Initiatives like the Housing Sabbath are designed to look at these issues through a faith lens and incorporate one’s personal beliefs and practices into actions aimed at helping the community as a whole.

The goal of the Housing Sabbath (which takes place the weekend before EBHO’s Affordable Housing Week, and most recently occurred May 5th through May 7th of 2017) is to bring the topic of affordable housing into the worship space. ICU believes that the unique resources of the faith community, both material and spiritual, are vital tools to be used in social transformation work, especially housing justice. As such, they bring together resident leaders of affordable housing and local faith leaders with EBHO staff and board members to educate denominations on the opportunities and responsibilities of communities of faith. The primary function of the Housing Sabbath, however, is to serve as a call to action. This action can be something as simple as participating in events during the upcoming Affordable Housing Week, but may lead to the cultivation of life-long housing advocates.

For ICU, it is important to realize that the Housing Sabbath is just one part of their larger work. Rather than being an end in and of itself, the Housing Sabbath is a means to engaging people in the year-long organizing and activism efforts needed in the fight for housing justice. As faith communities continue to utilize their vast property, material, and spiritual resources, they have the capacity to mobilize congregations to make positive changes in their community.

By Kyle Machicado, Emerson National Hunger Fellow

Residents United Network “Storms” to Victory

Building our own Leadership

Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1380 on September 29th, making California a “Housing First” state and establishing a Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council. Earlier this year, the bill sponsor, Senator Holly Mitchell, spoke at the Housing California Conference and asked people to go out and educate their state leaders about Housing First and why it is critical to ending homelessness. Residents United Network (RUN) members at the conference heard the Senator’s request and made it their mission to get SB 1380 to the governor’s desk.

shelterfromstormRUN conducted a comprehensive grassroots campaign to garner support for SB 1380. Members of RUN made in-district visits, heeding Senator Mitchell’s call to educate her legislative peers on the benefits of Housing First and to urge their “aye” votes in support. When the bill was stalled in appropriations committee, RUN gathered hundreds of support letters to move the bill to the Assembly floor. Earlier this week, RUN coordinated a thoughtful and effective “Twitter storm,” urging Governor Brown to sign SB 1380 and provide homeless Californians with #shelterfromtherain.

RUN leaders last effort pushed more than 350 tweets and retweets of #shelterfromtherain to Governor Brown’s twitter account over a two-hour period on September 27th.  RUN leaders were angry at the lack of Governor Brown’s support for funding for more affordable homes.  Resident leaders like Ms. Ramirez and her kids (pictured) participated in the action because she is frustrated by the lack of housing and the rising numbers of people experiencing homelessness in California.  At the same time the Governor is proud of a large rainy day fund he is amassing. RUN leaders cried out “It is raining now! We need more affordable homes!”  During the “storm,” people urged the governor to sign SB 1380 that was sitting on the Governor’s desk.   Resident leaders and partners gathered pictures at events, meetings and on the streets for the past week and coordinated with twitter-leaders in each of RUN’s regions to release them all at once.  Check out images from the successful campaign.

RUN Statewide Coordinator, Constance Slider-Pierre said, “This is the most focused campaign RUN has done to date. We didn’t stop, our leaders worked right up to the end of the legislative cycle. California is a big state.  We don’t have lots of money.  We had to use creative ways to get our stories and our faces in front of legislators and the governor.  The twitter storm was one of those ways.”  She further said, “We showed that affordable housing residents are a force to be reckoned with.”

By Katy Heins, Senior Organizer, Center for Community Change – Housing Trust Fund Project and Nur Kausar, Communications Manager, Housing California

Residents Move into Action: Washington Starts a Statewide Resident Organizing Project

Building our own Leadership

The Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance and their sister organization the Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund have teamed up to work with non-profit partners to organize with residents who live in affordable homes, people experiencing homelessness and social service staff.  Taking inspiration from Housing California’s organizing initiative, the Resident United Network (RUN), the Alliance and Action Fund recently created the Resident Action Project (RAP).  The overall goal of the Resident Action Project is to build a powerful statewide network of residents and service providers who wield power in Olympia for the creation of safe, affordable homes for everyone.

In the summer of 2015, the Alliance held a meeting of potential partners and residents to gauge the interest in organizing affordable home residents as well as those seeking affordable housing.  The appeal of building resident power was strong from partners and especially from the residents who attended.  Late 2015 and into the summer 2016, RAP has begun to form through three face-to-face meetings and monthly conference calls that have been the catalyst to bring RAP to fruition.  In seven short months, RAP has developed: structure, curriculum, training and voter engagement.

The reason the Alliance and Action Fund are starting RAP is because, while Washington State has taken positive steps budgeting some revenue and making policies that provide affordable housing, the state has still not allocated nearly enough revenue to deal adequately with the state’s affordable housing crisis.  According to the Alliance’s executive director, Rachael Myers, Washington advocates need to do something different; they needed to build more power.  Rachael points out, “We need more funding for affordable homes, better protections for tenants, and more supportive services for people experiencing homelessness. We know the solutions to this, what’s lacking is political will.” RAP is a natural extension for the Alliance’s engagement of those directly impacted by policies they are advocating for.

From the beginning, resident leaders have been at the forefront of developing RAP.  When asked why be part of RAP Matthew Anderson, a RAP leader, said, “I’m excited to part of RAP because we are building something new.  Residents and service providers together to build power for change!”


Resident Action project members develop skills, set foundation for statewide expansion.

The first 6 months of RAP’s development has focused on building in King County.  In May of this year, RAP leaders presented at the statewide homeless conference to spread the word about RAP across the state.  Dennis Saxman, a founding resident member of RAP, points out the reason for RAP to be statewide is to change the system that leads to the oppression of poor people and to make our voices heard.  In July, Dennis and another RAP leader Mr. B traveled with Alliance staff to Bellingham Washington to begin the statewide expansion of RAP.  The remainder of the year, RAP will concentrate on building out RAP in King County, Tacoma and Bellingham and explore using the Vancouver levy process as a way to build RAP in that community.    RAP will engage throughout the state by providing materials, communication and virtual training.   The Alliance is excited to build out this initiative, since they are building off the excitement of the residents at every meeting.

For more information on the Resident Action Project contact Kristina Nielander at kristinan@housingactionfund.org.


By Katy Heins, Senior Organizer, Center for Community Change – Housing Trust Fund Project