By: The National Alliance to End Homelessness

The Opportunity Starts at Home campaign is a long-term effort. Its strategy centers on improving federal policy: how can we incentivize and fund successful interventions that create sustainable housing for everyone?

As an organization committed to preventing and ending homelessness in the United States, the issue of affordable housing is a primary concern for the National Alliance to End Homelessness. After all, despite the many, many complexities of homelessness, its solution is strikingly simple: when a person has a home, they are no longer homeless.

Success for this campaign will depend on an approach to advocacy that can build support over the long run, regardless of who wins recent or upcoming elections. Such an approach will include four big steps.

Articulate the goal and the broad strategy for achieving it

Attracting support starts with boldly stating a goal. The goal must be evidently significant, and appeal to broadly-shared values – something that people can easily agree will make the world better. It must be clear, measurable, and concrete, so people will see progress and then success. At the same time, the goal must be feasible, as demonstrated by a strategy that can be easily understood and accepted.

The Opportunity Starts at Home campaign has articulated a far-reaching goal around making a stable, decent, affordable home available to every American. Advocacy will start by showing how stable housing improves life for all Americans – including those directly affected by housing instability, as well as the many others whose lives will be improved through stronger communities. Data and research already show how housing improves public health, children’s well-being, and economic growth. Its feasibility is demonstrated by existing efforts that get good results, even if they are not funded at the level necessary to do the entire job. And this work will reinforce our nation’s deeply shared value of the importance of a home, a value that has strong roots in conservative as well as liberal thought.

AP Photo/M. Spencer Green

Identify and work with all parties affected

Building alliances is an ongoing part of advocacy.  The Opportunity Starts at Home campaign is a result of a rising consciousness that broader availability of housing will help a diverse array of sectors achieve their missions. The campaign already includes major national organizations related to civil rights, schools, health care, anti-poverty, child well-being, and hunger, as well as housing and homelessness.

Part of the advocacy agenda will be to develop similar partnerships at the state and local levels, for the purpose of advocating with Congress and federal agencies; and to constantly be on the lookout for other issues, organizations and interests that intersect with housing. Examples might include businesses that employ people in lower skilled positions; environmental groups; or local government officials.

Set specific objectives

Policy objectives will include funding for rental subsidies, capital to build or rehabilitate housing, and short-term help to ward off individual housing crises. Our immediate work will involve protecting and expanding existing programs that provide funding for these purposes. In the longer run, there may be new programs that are designed to efficiently meet scaled-up demand.

Organize all the related interests in support of those objectives

Once all the preparation is done, the concrete part of advocacy will begin, such as organizing grassroots advocates to communicate simple messages to Congress and working with leaders at the state and local levels to leverage relationships with decision-makers.

The Opportunity Starts at Home campaign will be an exciting undertaking, involving new relationships and shared successes. The National Alliance to End Homelessness is excited to get started!