We arrived at the Coalition office bright and early at 6:30 AM to get everyone on our HHADvocacy Express Bus. We had friends from Real Change News, Compass Housing Alliance, Low Income Housing Institute, and [please list all other orgs]! We passed around breakfast croissants and oranges while Hillary gave us an overview of the bills we were going to be talking to our legislators about and the basics of advocacy and the legislative process.
The red scarves we picked up in Olympia showed we were all on the same team – the housing and homelessness advocacy team! The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance showed us how to send a mass text to our legislators to let them know that hundreds of people were showing up for housing and homelessness. Afterward, we split off to a number of interesting workshops. The one I attended was about how to use social media to reach out and educate people. We learned some useful tips on how to use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to get our message to the most people possible.
From there we gathered with our districts. In my own district, the 46th, I met several people whose stories were so necessary for our legislators – Senator Frockt, Representative Pollet, and Representative Valdez – to hear. There was a group of women who lived in manufactured homes, who owned their homes but not the land they were on. The landowners decided they want to sell that land, leaving these residents, most of whom are seniors and disabled, facing homelessness. I met a group of trans and gender-nonconforming people who had experienced homelessness, and when confronted with the lack of resources, decided to open their home to homeless trans people. I met a young woman with the Mockingbird Society, whose childhood homelessness led to her being placed in foster care.
Unfortunately, Senator Frockt and Representative Valdez were unable to speak to us, due to the busy legislative session. We spoke to their aides and to Representative Pollet, who was able to make an appearance. Our representatives had so many bills to look at that they definitely appreciated us bringing certain ones to their attention. While all of them were on board with our legislative priorities, our support helps them push these bills forward. The stories that we shared reminded our legislators why housing and homelessness issues are so important, and gave them real people to keep in mind while they fought for our bills on the house or senate floor.
After our meeting, I delivered our huge stack of over 450 advocacy postcards to each legislator’s office and then went to watch HB 2578, banning Source of Income Discrimination, pass in the House Committee!
We got back to Seattle around 6:00. It was a long day, but a fun and educational experience. It was great to talk with other advocates and hear their stories and share strategies on how to make change happen. Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day was such a cool way to see democracy in action!
I am revisiting this after the legislative session has ended, and every bill that we advocated has passed and been signed by the governor. When you’re up early in the morning piling people onto a bus, or scurrying around legislative offices delivering a handful of postcards here and there, I think it can be difficult to see what all that hard work is building to. Our successes in this legislative session prove how worth it all of this is. Our meetings with our district legislators were so valuable – a big part of advocacy is making sure our legislators are educated on the bills we want to pass and why they are so important. Legislators are people just like us, with limited time and space in their minds for the thousands of bills they need to keep track of. Our job is to tell them which ones are the priority, and clearly they heard us.
It is so fascinating to witness every step of the democratic process, from the advocacy stage to seeing a bill pass in the House, to seeing bills being signed by Governor Inslee. It’s also a reminder of the importance of voting, and by extension, the importance of our work registering homeless people to vote. It MATTERS who our legislators are. If we didn’t have the majority this year, so much of this could not have happened.
Looking back on this really puts everything in perspective. Thank you so much to all of the people who helped us get here!