Dispatches from the LA Families Conference

written by naehblog
February 12, 2010

Greetings, folks. Thanks to my trusty, awesome colleague Liz Whitehurst, I haven’t been around but it’s nice to be back!

We have a few dispatches from LA and the Families Conference, which is currently in it’s last day in sunny California. After 3+ days of speakers, workshops, keynotes, and plenty of weather/travel trouble, Alliance staff will be returning from the land of beachy sunshine to the snowy aftermath of our east coast blizzards.

Which isn’t to say that they haven’t had their share of troubles. Turns out, weather troubles on the east had a noted impact on the west! Stranded speakers led to some creative thinking for the staff!

Amanda Krusemark, our newly-promoted Programs & Policy Associate – shares her dispatch from the conference after a long couple first days…

Waiting for…airplanes…

I’m lucky I didn’t have any trouble with the airport. I spent frantic hours on Monday trying to change my flight on Tuesday so that I wouldn’t get stuck in the snowstorm. I ended up leaving Dulles at 8 a.m. on Tuesday and made it out with no problems whatsoever. I’m lucky I was able to get out so early, ahead of the storm.

Our colleagues, though, – Sharon, Sarah, and Steve – ended up getting in a car and DRIVING to Richmond chasing a flight! It turns out they were able to get on the plane, make a connection, and got to Los Angeles by 1 a.m. Tuesday night.

I think it was a VERY long day for them.

BUT despite escaping the snow in DC, we landed in LA only to find rain and wind! FAIL. It was kind of disappointing, actually. That was Tuesday, though, but it has been sunny every day since, and I think it will be nice tomorrow, too. Thank goodness for the small blessings.

One the ground and working it out…

My moderator, Andrea White, got stuck in NYC and wasn’t going to be able to lead an advanced rent assistance workshop. She was going to lead a really deep discussion about targeting rent assistance. Luckily, our colleague Sharon was able to step in and fill her spot. Unluckily, though, I managed to misplace (or maybe even leave in the office on Thursday before the first of the snow hit?) my notes for the workshop. So, I couldn’t find my notes and I/we had to brief Sharon on what the workshop would be about, what her role should be, some of the key questions we planned to ask, etc. Luckily, Sharon is really knowledgeable about this stuff and she and the other speakers (who are all true experts) and me were able to recreate and slightly modify the plan.

It worked out pretty well, actually. But that was AFTER I spent 30 minutes running around the hotel asking everyone if they had seen my notebook and spending another 30 minutes trying to jot down notes from memory!

Keynotes & Highlights…

Mercedes Marquez, Assistant Secretary for community planning and development at HUD – the department that oversees all the homeless programs – was the keynote, and I thought she made some great points.

She really highlighted some key parts of the president’s budget and how HUD is working to increase intra and inter-departmental coordination and collaboration. She pointed out that most programs were NOT designed to work together when they were created. HUD is working to change that, though. They are trying to be really intentional in incorporating coordination and collaboration into the program design for some new and current programs.

I also met some really interesting folks today!

I really think that’s one of my favorite parts of the conference – seeing who comes and hearing all of the interesting things that people are doing and what their perspectives are on the issues and the solutions.

That’s really the purpose of Alliance conference in the first place, you know? We create a space where people who work in our field are able to come together, learn from each other, network and collaborate, and meet our collective ends. It’s what makes me feel so good – even if we’re exhausted! – after our conference. This is a key part of the Alliance’s contribution to the conversation.