Exercise Your Advocacy Muscle
Editor’s Note: The legislative session in Minnesota may be over, but it’s still a good time to advocate for causes and legislative changes that are important to you. Start building a relationship with your representatives now so when important legislation is pending, you will know what to say and your voice will be heard!
When you think of “advocacy,” what comes to mind? Maybe you think of lively public demonstrations, protests, marches, or speeches of workers promoting a cause. These images certainly came to mind for me, when I first learned about advocacy.
While advocacy certainly includes these actions for social justice, it involves many more ways of engagement. For example, a way to advocate involves contacting and communicating with one’s state and congressional representatives. Tammy Walhof, executive director of Lutheran Advocacy-Minnesota presented during a Daily Work staff meeting. I learned that advocacy involves creating a relationship with your representatives. Of course, any relationship needs to be nurtured and cultivated, including those with lawmakers and other community leaders.
One way you can think of this relationship is thinking of advocacy as a muscle. Everyone has many muscles in their body but only the conscious and repeated use of muscles strengthens them. Similarly, everyone has the capacity for advocacy. Those who “exercise” their advocacy muscle will strengthen their skills and confidence in advancing the causes and law changes they believe in. For example, contacting my representatives to share my belief in socially just policies and legislation is one way that I can exercise this advocacy muscle.
You may wonder “How do I know what to advocate for?” Look around your community, neighborhood, employment, support services, and schools. What policies are currently in place that help or hurt others? You can also read the newspaper, listen to the radio, attend city council meetings, or visit public libraries to recognize the needs in your local community. Writing a letter to your representative or elected official should be personalized to appeal to them and their beliefs. Letters also are more compelling when they include both facts and personal experiences or stories from your own life.
For example, at Daily Work, I assist job seekers who experience challenges beyond just looking for a job. Almost every job seeker we serve struggles to find affordable housing; for people in poverty, most of their income is devoted to housing costs. This makes finding a job harder because unmet needs drain job seekers’ energy and resources. As both a case manager at Daily Work and a social work student, advocacy plays a central part of my roles. I can exercise my advocacy muscle by writing a letter to an elected official who represents me to advocate for solutions addressing the affordable housing crisis.
Here’s a sample letter to help you get started.
Sample Letter to a U.S. Representative or Senator
State, Zip code
Your Phone Number
The Honorable Amy Klobuchar
1200 Washington Avenue South, Room 250
Minneapolis, MN 55415
Dear Senator Klobuchar,
(In your first paragraph you may include personal information, stories, examples) I am a social work intern at Daily Work, as nonprofit organization that helps people find work. As a case manager at Daily Work, I have learned how the affordable housing crisis affects the job seekers that I help. Many are low-income adults who also are raising families and are immigrants from East African countries. Some of these job seekers are working multiple full-time and part-time jobs and have confided in me that most of their income goes to rent. Despite their hard work, they barely have enough money left over for savings, food, childcare, gas, and insurance. I also work with job seekers who are older adults and struggle with both homelessness and finding a job. If America wants to continue to be a “land of opportunity”, we need more affordable housing for low-income families and seniors that is safe and well-maintained.
(In your second paragraph you many include facts and a specific legislative request)
I am writing to ask for your support on the S.F. 2939 Homes for All bill that would allow $140 million in bonds to create supportive rental housing and senior housing, preserve existing affordable housing, promote homeownership through community land trusts, and make improvements to Minnesota’s public housing. $140 million in bonds would develop or preserve housing for 4,650 families across Minnesota and support 2,000 Minnesota jobs working on housing projects. Affordable housing is important for individuals across their lifespans and for Minnesota’s growing and diverse renters and homeowners.
Everyone—individuals, families, jobseekers, immigrants, and, seniors should have access to quality, affordable housing. Having a safe place to call your own and being able to develop roots in one’s neighborhood and community helps people to live independently and to support well-being in all aspects of life.
Case Management Intern at Daily Work