Representatives from the Oregon Housing Alliance and Oregon Food Bank gathered in Portland on October 22 to discuss their model of multi-sector collaboration. The Oregon Housing Alliance, which consists of more than 80 multi-sector organizations focused on expanding access to safe, decent, affordable homes. Among the Alliance’s most active members is the Oregon Food Bank, one of the few food banks nationally that works specifically on affordable housing advocacy at both the state and federal levels.

“We are all well aware of the relationship between rent and food,” said Jeff Kleen, public policy advocate with Oregon Food Bank. “As an organization, we very nearly talk about housing just as much as we talk about hunger. The people we serve keep telling us ‘it’s housing, it’s rent, it’s having a safe place to call home.’” Mr. Kleen urged housing advocates across the country to “reach out to your local food bank and push them to work on this issue.”

“A different voice can really help legislators and decision-makers understand an issue in a new way,” said Alison McIntosh, deputy director of policy and communications at Neighborhood Partnerships and convener of the Oregon Housing Alliance. “To have a different partner go with us has been a huge game-changer here in Oregon.  In 2016, we had the Food Bank really step up with us alongside our other partners, and we asked for $10 million from the legislature in additional money for emergency rent assistance and emergency shelter.  We got it.  In 2017, we increased it to $20 million per year; and in 2018, to $25 million per year.”

“As long as housing is a driving issue for our clients, we will work on it,” said Anneliese Koehler, public policy advocate with Oregon Food Bank. “We are going to fight alongside housing advocates.”

Neighborhood Partnerships and the Oregon Housing Alliance held its annual conference in Salem, OR, later in the week, bringing together experts in affordable housing and financial stability throughout the state to share ideas and lessons learned.  In a practicum workshop about advocacy and strategic communications, the conference featured the Opportunity Starts at Home multi-sector affordable housing campaign.  Campaign Director Mike Koprowski shared updates about the national effort and offered best practices about how to build multi-sector coalitions and how to deploy “unusual suspects” to sway decision-makers about housing.

The Opportunity Starts at Home campaign has provided capacity-building grants to partners in seven states (California, Idaho, Maine, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, and Utah) to help broaden their coalitions to other sectors.  To learn more about the Oregon Housing Alliance’s powerful partnership with Oregon Food Bank, click here.  To see the campaign’s “Hunger & Housing” fact sheet, click here.