Illinois SSO Advocacy
Habitat for Humanity International’s vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live.
1.6 billion people need a safe, adequate, affordable place to live. Adequate housing improves outcomes for people, affects broader communities, and is a driver for the economy.
Habitat for Humanity has been building homes, communities and hope through direct engagement for nearly four decades. In Illinois, nearly 1 in 3 are now considered poor or low income, an astounding statistic. Based on the US Census American Community Survey (2010), median household income today is $52,972, down over 3% from the recession (2009) and 7% from before the recession (2007).
Equally disturbing is the Gross Rent as a Percentage of Household Income. Over 712,000 Illinoisan families currently renting (51%) are paying over 30% of monthly income on rent (Source: US Census Bureau 2007-2011 American Community Survey). As a result, these families are extremely cost-burdened in rent which means less discretionary monthly income for food, clothing, transportation and education.
Clearly, there is a large and growing need for decent, affordable housing in our state. The 49 Habitat for Humanity affiliates throughout the state of Illinois are working hard to address that need. Habitat believes in the value of home ownership, both for Illinoisan families and for the communities in which they live.
Habitat for Humanity’s global strategic plan challenges Habitat affiliates to become more effective catalysts for systemic change—change that will help exponentially serve more families. To substantially reduce the housing deficit, Habitat affiliates must incorporate advocacy and influence the systems and policies that affect the communities it serves.
Policies, systems, and attitudes impact us every day. They are also developed at the local, state, national and global level making it critical to understand where policy is made and who the decision makers are.
Government regulations and laws have a significant impact on every nonprofit organization and the people it serves. To be effective, an organization must recognize the rules affecting those it serves. This makes it imperative for organizations at all levels to become involved with policymakers at the local, state and national levels who affect their organizations and constituencies.
While strategies will need to be tailored in each locality, Habitat will share a common advocacy approach around the world including:
- Housing focused: Advocacy should be limited to those issues which have a direct impact on housing or Habitat operations.
- Community centered: While policy and systems may be set at national or global levels, these issues must ensure local communities in need of adequate housing are the ultimate beneficiaries.
- Informed by program: Habitat is doing both advocacy and direct service and advocacy and programmatic activities should be linked.
- Evidence based: Grounding advocacy in facts, research and data is critical.
- Outcome oriented: Simply conducting advocacy is not enough. Meetings with legislators, organizing community action, developing policy positions or issue based media campaigns must positively affect individuals, neighborhoods and communities.
- Volunteer friendly: Involving volunteers in advocacy maximizes impact as well as increases Habitat’s ability to engage and retain them.
- Coalition engagement: Coalitions, both informal and formal, are often necessary to affect change.
- Mutually dependent: Advocacy positions being taken should not cause harm to other HFH organizations.
- Non-confrontational: Habitat is not confrontational in its advocacy. HFH works to promote understanding using evidence and practical knowledge from programs around the world.
- Nonpartisan: Advocacy efforts should be issue focused, and must not promote candidates or specific political parties.