Advocacy plays a key role in Habitat’s history -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Advocacy plays a key role in Habitat’s history

By Jennifer Lindsey

“Habitat for Humanity was founded on a simple premise with a radical goal: work in partnership with those in need of adequate shelter to build simple, decent houses for all. It started with 42 half-acre house sites at Koinonia Farms in Americus, Georgia, and grew into an international organization with a presence in about 90 countries. Throughout the organization’s history, Habitat has advocated for a better world – expressing God’s love by putting faith into action and helping those in need.”

That paragraph is taken from the Advocacy Task Force Report and Recommendations presented to Habitat for Humanity’s International Board of Directors in 2005 that led to the inclusion of advocacy in HFHI’s current strategic plan.

It is a fitting beginning to a look at the history of advocacy in our ministry. The founding documents of the Koinonia Partnership Ministries highlight three prongs: communications, instruction and application.

“By communication,” the document states, “we mean the sowing of the seed, the spreading of the radical ideas of the gospel message; the call to preach the good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”

As a continuation of this message, Habitat for Humanity’s ultimate goal includes the proclamation that “all of our words and actions are for the ultimate purpose of putting shelter on the hearts and minds of people in such a powerful way that poverty housing and homelessness become socially, politically and religiously unacceptable in our nations and world.”

Indeed, since the founding of Habitat for Humanity International in 1976, we have expressed our mission as working toward two goals: building houses with people who otherwise could not own their own home; and making it a matter of conscience worldwide that substandard housing is morally, socially, religiously, politically and economically unacceptable.

The latter goal manifests itself in many ways throughout the Habitat world: On build sites and board rooms, we reach out to supporters, volunteers, partners and friends to educate, engage and urge action to end poverty housing.

And so, although advocacy has come under many headings in our history, it is at the very core of who we are and what we do. In more recent years, advocacy has been mentioned by name in organizational plans and programs. The 2000-05 HFHI strategic plan included advocacy in its four strategic directions: “Through powerfully and appropriately communicating the needs of all people for safe and decent shelter, HFH engages in deliberate efforts to leverage change within society resulting in the elimination of the external restraints that contribute to poverty and poverty housing.”

Finally, the 2005 advocacy report quoted above became the pillar of Goal 3, Objective 3:2 of Habitat for Humanity International’s 2007-11 Strategic Plan: “Call upon and mobilize individuals and institutions to implement policies and practices that produce and preserve affordable housing.”

As a result of these more intentional actions to make advocacy an official element of our ministry, HFHI now has an advocacy department with a strong and growing staff dedicated to building capacity throughout the Habitat world to advocate for better housing for all. But, just as they taught at Koinonia Farms so many years ago, we all are responsible for sowing the seeds.

Senior Director Jennifer Lindsey is an international communications and advocacy of HFHI. Your email address is JLindsey@habitat.org.