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ADVOCACY

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ADVOCACY
 

ADVOCACY DAY (PART I) – WHY HOUSING MATTERS

Affordable housing is becoming less and less feasible for Californians. While the renown of outrageous rents in places like San Francisco or Los Angeles are well cataloged, one aspect often forgotten is homeownership. Homeownership, a traditional hallmark of middle-class status, is out of reach for many Americans and even further out of reach for some Riverside County residents. Homeownership in California is at its lowest point since the 1950s (sourced from United States Census Bureau) and this is in no small part due to the rising costs of housing.

Furthermore, even just to cover basic housing expenses a two-working parent family needs to earn $67,513 and a single-parent family needs to earn $57,167 in Riverside County (sourced from California Budget & Policy Center).

In short, housing is important. Housing is important not only because of the rising costs and diminishing access to housing, but because a stable place to live offers a myriad of benefits beyond simply a place to live. One can point to the University of Illinois, which found that by housing “super-user” homeless persons they were able to cut emergency room visits significantly, ultimately saving hospitals money and improving the health of the residents (Morning Edition, NPR, Jan 30, 2018).

The health benefits of stable housing are compelling, but the benefits do not stop at health. Independent research at Habitat for Humanity Riverside found that new homeowners experienced a 39% household income increase after moving into their Habitat home. Additionally, young adults (ages 18-25) living in Habitat homes had high school graduation rates of 100%, and for all residents ages 25+ the rate for Bachelor’s degree or higher increased from 12.96% (before having a Habitat home) to 34.09% (after having a Habitat home)—Riverside County’s Bachelor degree or higher rate is 21.5%, 2013-2017 (United States Census Bureau).

Housing matters! Being an advocate matters.

At Habitat for Humanity Riverside, we believe that homes empower individuals and families to build their own future. Our vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live; and with the help of advocates, volunteers, and legislators we hope to make this vision a reality.

Thank you to the offices and staffs of Sen. Richard Roth, Sen. Connie Leyva, Asm. Jose Medina, Asm. Sabrina Cervantes, Asm. Jay Obernolte, Asm. Chad Mayes, Asm. Melissa Melendez, Asm. Eduardo Garcia, and Asm. Eloise Gomez Reyes for meeting with Habitat for Humanity Riverside.

ADVOCACY DAY (PART II) – THE DAY OF THE EVENT

As the cold bead of sweat rolled down my brow, I questioned my decisions that led me to this moment. “Why did I agree to this?” I contemplated. The perspiration was born not from manual labor (something I have grown accustomed to through working on home repair projects), but instead born from the anxiety of talking to legislators. I loosened the floral-patterned tie noosed around my neck, uttered my first words, “Hi. I’m from Habitat for Humanity Riverside.” And they responded “Hi. What brings you here today? And how can we help?” Perhaps eased by their generous attention and obvious desire to help, I was able to muster the confidence to produce the words that I had rehearsed the night before. I quickly gave them statistics on how homeownership in California was at its lowest since the 1950s, housing costs are becoming more and more out of reach for the average Californian, and other reasons why housing matters a great deal..

To my pleasant surprise, not only were they receptive to my earnest requests, but they were also privy to most of the information I was feeding them. These public servants were as knowledgeable as they were excited to help. The general vibe was a friendliness towards Habitat for Humanity’s vision whereby everyone has a decent place to live.

In hindsight, however, this should not have been surprising, as being on the side of accessible and decent housing is an non-controversial perspective to take. Rather, what is controversial is how to implement and fund these housing efforts. While, with the passage of Proposition 1 and other sympathetic legislation is a good start, our efforts cannot end here. It is our stance that not only does housing matter, but that without housing nothing else matters. We can point to data to corroborate this statement, like we did in ADVOCACY DAY PART I, but housing matters on an even more foundational level. Without a place to call home, a place to go at the end of the day, a place to call a refuge… what are we doing? Housing is more then a Public Policy issue, data points in an analyst’s spreadsheet, or a hurdle to social progress. Decent and affordable housing is a human issue, and as such requires the commitment and passion of advocates to bolster its cause.

HOW YOU CAN BE AN ADVOCATE

While I had the sweat-inducing privilege of meeting some of California’s finest legislators, this is only one way to be an advocate. There are many ways to advocate, and while the list below is not exhaustive, it is a good place to start.

1.       Make a Voluntary Tax Contribution

2.       Spread the word about our home applications

3.       Volunteer

4.       Donate to our ReStore

5.       Advocate legislation that funds affordable housing measures