A Beginner’s Experience in Advocacy at Homeless Day on the Hill

02/20/2020 by Rebecca Toews
Guest blog by Kerry Klemm, Bridging Board of Directors

Early in 2019 I joined Bridging’s advocacy committee to learn more about how I could help build awareness and support for Bridging clients. During my first meeting I learned about Bridging’s efforts to help build legislative support that would help Minnesotans move out of homelessness and into self sufficiency.

Long story short: While I jumped into Homeless Day on the Hill without really knowing what it was all about, I walked away feeling humbled (by how much I learned about what it’s like to live in an underfunded household) and empowered (by how much impact a few voices had on our legislative representatives.)

If you want to make a bigger difference, legislative advocacy is a great way to to increase the volume and impact of your voice. I encourage you to sign up and attend this year on March 11.

Whether you can share a few hours or the whole day, your efforts will help make a difference. To make it easy and make this a better fit for your comfort zone, we want to share a “beginners guide” to advocacy via Homeless Day on the Hill.

The Kick Off

Prior to the event, you register with Bridging and the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless (a group of concerned organizations, including Bridging, that sponsors the day.) Once you get to the kickoff location, be sure to check in to get a folder! This important primer includes your schedule for the day, talking points, deeper background materials, handouts and activities to aid your conversations with legislators. You’ll want this with you to help make your day go smoothly!

The Bridging group will meet up so you can introduce yourself and get comfortable– meet the other friendly faces that will be wearing Bridging tees! In 2019 we heard from Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan and Governor Tim Walsh. They shared their personal stories and rallied the group around legislative action they were championing. These initiatives included funding to create more affordable housing and family assistance. Then we walked a few short blocks to the Capital, and the day would begin!

The Big Impact – Meeting with Legislators

I had never met with a legislator before, but I will again. This is an easier and impactful way to to change policy.

In my meeting packet I found the time and location for my meeting with MY legislators, along with a list of who else would be meeting with me (other constituents for the legislator also attending HDOTH) and the name of the person who volunteered to be the leader for the conversation. Legislators weren’t always on time since they were in session and needed to prioritize, but they did stay in touch and make time for us during the day.

My meetings kicked off with the group leader (who in one case was me) greeting the legislator and stating our purpose. The legislators then introduced themselves, and we went around sharing our stories about why we are impassioned on this topic and what’s most important to us (this is where those easy talking points came in handy!)

They were all aware of and enthusiastic about Bridging and thankful for sharing our stories. They then shared a bit about their perspectives, and the leader went through what we wanted to leave behind for the legislators to ponder and what bills we wanted to encourage them to vote for. The meetings took around 15-30 minutes, and had high personal impact. The materials and kickoff made it so easy, and I was amazed at how eager our legislators were to listen and here our stories.

My meetings were very spread out, so I was at the capital all day. Others were done by noon or early afternoon. We did have a rally & connect room with WiFi, snacks and space to visit/work. Part of the day included the option to hear our bill introduced and discussed in session, which was a great experience to hear and see a bill move through that part of the legislative process.

The cafeterias get pretty crowded, so while there are on-site eating options, most found it easier to bring some snacks or a lunch. Some meetings lingered later into the day, but most were done by 2 or 3, and people were able to head home and beat traffic.

The Result

While it’s hard to tell exactly what drives the legislation that gets passed, I believe the impact of HDOTH, a collection of individuals sharing stories and rallying to protect and support those struggling with affordable housing, many of who also attended the day, has a large impact. A few highlights and legislative outcomes:

  • Challenge Program: $5 million increase
  • Homework starts with home: $3.5 million increase
  • Family Homeless Prevention Assistance Program: $3.5 million increase
  • Manufactured home park infrastructure grants: $2 million increase

Sign up to attend 2020 HDOTH!

If you’d like to learn more, reach out to Bridging Staff or I’m glad to share more about my experience. Here’s the quick steps to participate on March 11, 2020. And if you can’t make it, consider sending your legislators an email or giving a call to encourage their support of this year’s initiatives.

2020 Homeless Day on the Hill March 11, 2020 – 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Training: 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

Location: Central Presbyterian Church, 500 Cedar Street, St. Paul, MN  55101

Lobbying: 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m

Location: Minnesota State Capitol, 75 Rev. Martin Luther King Drive, St. Paul, MN 55101

To participate:

  1. Register with MN Coalition for the Homeless: Why is this important? In order to meet one-on-one with the state legislator from your district, MN Coalition for the Homeless needs to know your voting district!
  2. Register with Bridging by emailing Kirsten Fedorowicz at csintern@Bridging.org, calling or texting 952.652.1170. Why is this important? We want you to get a free T-Shirt!
  3. More Questions? Please email, call, or grab Kirsten for an in-person conversation

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