Ending Homelessness Today — Advocacy How-To
Get Your U.S. Rep to Support Homeless Assistance Funding! Here’s How.
April 05, 2013
After what can only be called an epic journey, fiscal year (FY) 2013 is over and Congress has moved full steam ahead into FY 2014. After the release of their Budget Resolutions (non-binding outlines of how the federal budget should look this year and in the near future – both the House and Senate came out with very different visions), the House and Senate are now working on the specifics of funding programs for various programs, including HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants.
As such, Members of Congress are currently circulating Dear Colleague letters. Dear Colleague letters, also known as “sign-on letters,” are usually sponsored by one to three Members of Congress and contain a message for specific people in Congress – in this case, the Chair and Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee or an Appropriations Subcommittee. The message usually refers to increasing or maintaining funding levels for specific programs for the upcoming fiscal year. The sponsors circulate the letter among their colleagues in either the House or Senate (in this case, both letters are in the House) to gather signatures.
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Youth Homelessness: This Year We Learn More
January 04, 2013
It's January and that means that communities across the country are preparing for their HUD mandated Point-In-Time Counts, which they will be performing at the end of this month. This year the homeless assistance field will take an important step toward ending youth homelessness by 2020 - one of the four major goals of Opening Doors – by collecting more accurate data on the population of youth experiencing homelessness.
Recently, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) completed a series of webinars focused on showing a number of communities how to collect more detailed and accurate data on homeless youth during their counts. Though targeted at specific communities – Boston, Houston, and Los Angeles – the webinars provide information that should be useful for training volunteers, picking locations to survey, and finalizing survey questions in a wide range of communities.
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Learning about Advocacy at our National Conference on Ending Homelessness
May 16, 2012
When our blog readers think of Washington, DC, they often think of politics (and politicians, of course), soaring monuments, and hopefully, the Alliance’s advocacy efforts. But in all seriousness, coming to our nation’s capital is a great opportunity to learn what’s happening with federal policy and to make an impact on it. We talked last week about how to participate in Capitol Hill Day, but our National Conference on Ending Homelessness also offers a great opportunity to learn more about federal policy and advocacy, including messaging and how-tos.
This year, we’ve got a great track of workshops for anyone who wants to better hone their advocacy skills, for seasoned advocates, for Capitol Hill Day participants, or for folks who are just curious. Here’s a basic overview of some of the great advocacy workshops we’re planning:
Building a Systems Change Movement: Engaging Local Leaders – This workshop will provide attendees with concrete examples and how tips for getting your local community leaders (elected officials or otherwise) to work together to support and affect positive systems change.
Impacting Policy: Making the Most of your Advocacy Meetings – Ideal for Capitol Hill Day participants, this workshop will cover the nitty-gritty of conducting a meeting with your Member of Congress or their staff. The lessons imparted will also translate to local and state policymakers or other key stakeholder meetings.
The Federal Budget: Update and Impact on Ending Homelessness – There have been many changes to ... Read More »
What's a 302(b) Allocation?
April 25, 2012
We often write about the appropriations process on this blog, and we try to avoid using too much jargon. But when discussing the federal funding process, it’s hard to avoid using at least a few terms that don’t come up in normal everyday conversation (unless, of course, you work with us). They include “appropriations” – a formal word for “funding” – and “mark up” – the process whereby a committee amends and votes on legislation. And finally, there are “allocations,” which, to add further confusion, come in both 302(a) and 302(b) varieties. This blog will hopefully clarify both of those terms and provide a little insight into why these references to an obscure part of the federal budget code matter to your efforts to prevent and end homelessness.
The 302(a) allocation is pretty easy – it’s the amount the House and Senate say the Appropriations Committees have to spend on all federal “discretionary” programs (see this old blog for more info on discretionary spending), which includes pretty much every single homeless and affordable housing program. The 302(a) can vary between the House and Senate, as it does this year, depending on each chamber’s priorities for federal spending.
Each Appropriations Committee (one in the House and one in the Senate) then divides the single, large 302(a) allocation (to give you a sense of the size, it was $1.043 trillion last year) into twelve pots – one for each of the appropriations subcommittees. The amount that each subcommittee gets …drumrol... Read More »
How to Get a Member of Congress to Visit Your Program
April 12, 2012
Inviting your Member of Congress or other elected official to visit and tour your homeless assistance program can be one of the most impactful ways to interact with them and engage them in the movement to end homelessness. Site visits involve letting your representatives or senators see first-hand how your program operates and help them meet with staff and consumers, so that they can make the connection between your program working to end homelessness in their district, and the legislation they work on every day in Washington, DC.
So how and when can you conduct a site visit? This blog will give you a little more background, and your opportunity is coming soon! The House and Senate will be in recess, working back in the districts, from April 30 to May 4! With several federal funding bills expected to be released in the coming weeks, the May recess offers a perfect opportunity to explain the importance of increasing federal homelessness funding to better service people at risk of or experiencing homelessness in their districts.
Site visits can be quick tours, or more involved events including speakers and the media. Both are effective, and which type you plan depends on your Member’s availability and your goals for the site visit. Most importantly, you should pick one to two policy issues on which to focus. This will depend largely on your specific program and the types of federal funds you use. For example, do you... Read More »
Advocacy How-To: Emailing Your Member's Office
June 16, 2011
Our “Advocacy How-To” series provides tips, tools, and strategies to conduct your own advocacy and get involved in Alliance advocacy campaigns. Today’s post is from Federal Policy Intern, Swaroop Vitta.
Last week, we saw how easy it is to find your Members of Congress, the committees they sit on, and the appropriate staff members to contact. This week and next, we’ll talk about how to go about contacting your Members’ offices. There are a few ways to do this, but we recommend either calling or emailing their offices – “snail mail” can take weeks to get through Capitol Hill security.
Today, we will talk about emailing the office.
Because it makes the most sense to contact the staff person who handles your issue (like housing) directly, the most effective way to reach them is usually to get their direct email address, rather than the general email address listed on the Member’s website.
Many congressional offices will not give out email addresses for their staff members, but the Alliance can help you figure out the email address if you know the staff person’s name. To get this information, either:
Call the congressional office directly, or
Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected with your Member’s office.
Once you reach the office, ask who handles your issue area. For example, if you will be emailing your Member about housing issues, ask for the staff member in charge of ho... Read More »
Advocacy How-To: How Do I Contact Members of Congress?
June 09, 2011
Our "Advocacy How-To" series provides tips, tools, and strategies to conduct your own advocacy and get involved in Alliance advocacy campaigns. Today’s post is from our Director of Policy Outreach, Amanda Krusemark.
So, you want to get involved in federal advocacy. But who, exactly, should you contact? Which Members of Congress are most important? Who should you talk to in their offices? Today, we’re going to answer these questions.
Members of Congress are most interested in hearing from their own constituents, so you should generally only contact Members who represent your community.
If you’re not sure who your representatives are, visit www.house.gov and type your zip code into the box labeled “FIND YOUR REPRESENTATIVE.”
You can find your senators at www.senate.gov. Just choose your state from the box labeled “Find Your Senators.”
Once you know who represents you in Congress, you might wonder which Member (or Members) is most important for your cause.
Congress does most of its legislative work through committees so you should find out on which committees your Members of Congress sit. (Members’ websites usually have this information, or we can help.) Depending on the issue, there are several committees that could be important. For example, the most important committee for funding HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants is the Appropriations Committee.
Representatives and senators in charge of these key committees (the Chair and Ranking Member) are the most important, followed by commi... Read More »