I started off my career in social services as a volunteer in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Birmingham, Alabama. My neighbor in Birmingham was a woman named Karen.* A year prior, Karen had fled a domestic violence relationship with her teenage son and school-aged twin boys. She had spent six months living in a homeless shelter and was now in a house provided by a transitional housing program. Karen was holding down a full time job as a secretary, battling depression, and trying to lift her family out of a traumatic and violent past. Her sometimes working car didn’t always get her to work in the morning, and occasionally she would ask me for a ride. On the evening of Election Day in 2000, Karen came to my door and asked if she could impose upon me, her car wouldn’t start and she really wanted to make it to the polls before they closed. Could I give her a ride? (Public transportation in Birmingham did not reach the polling booths.) I drove her the 10 min to the polling booths, and that weekend she (on her meager income) gifted me a plant in thanks.
Now, nearly 15 years later, I find myself working at Faithful Action in Transforming Homelessness (FAITH), an interfaith program that seeks to increase political awareness around issues of housing and homelessness. I think of Karen often. I think of all the reasons that she could have stayed home that night. She was a single, homeless, working mother of three with no easy way to the polls. And yet, she made it happen because it was important to her to make her voice heard. In her circumstances nearly 15 years ago, her voice was rarely sought after and not often validated – she struggled to be heard at work, in the social social service system, and most certainly by her 3 loving teen and tween sons!
She saw her vote as a way to make a statement and bring her voice to bear.
And if Karen can take the time to make her statement, don’t we, as people of faith with a call to serve those in need, have the time to make our own? Should we not add our voices in solidarity to hers? Those of us who are more fortunate can add our voices and increase the volume, increase the awareness, and increase the funding for programs affecting those experiencing homelessness.
As we move into a year where our legislature will be setting our 2 year budget, consider what you can do to add your voice in advocacy of housing and homelessness issues.
Here’s a few ideas:
- Join the social justice group at your church or faith community (or start one!)
- Call the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000 and let them know that you support affordable housing programs.
- Sign up for an Advocacy Email List. FAITH’s Advocacy List can be found here in the upper right hand corner: http://faithadvocacy.org/current_advocacy-alerts/
- Ask FAITH to come to your faith organization to present a workshop on how your members can become more involved with housing and homeless policy issues this year! More info at: http://faithadvocacy.org/workshops/
Together we can make a difference!
* Name and identifying details have been changed to protect the individual’s privacy.