Habitat’s advocacy efforts go online -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Habitat’s advocacy efforts go online

By Colleen Fitzgerald

Every year, Habitat for Humanity mobilizes hundreds of thousands of volunteers on worksites in the United States and around the world. Many more individuals are Habitat donors or simply believe in our mission. Imagine if all of these supporters in the United States told Congress that they think everyone should have a simple, decent place to live. The powerful decision-makers who received these messages would be compelled to create policies to end poverty housing worldwide.

With the launch of Habitat’s online advocacy tool last year, we are moving closer to this goal and giving U.S. supporters one more way to be involved with the mission. Affiliate staff members, volunteers and other supporters can use this online tool to send e-mails to their representatives in Congress and become advocates for Habitat for Humanity’s legislative priorities. With every message that is sent to Congress, advocates are helping ensure that more people have an affordable place to live—with or without Habitat’s assistance.

Advocacy is an integral part of Habitat’s mission and is one of the four goals of the HFHI Strategic Plan 2007-2011: “HFHI will help lead the transformation of systems that impact affordable housing.” The online advocacy tool gives us the means to speak truth to power and moves us closer to this goal of transforming systems. How can you become an advocate? Members of the general public and U.S.-based HFHI staff can visit www.habitat.org and click on “Be an Advocate” on the homepage. HFHI staff members who are not U.S. citizens can sign up to receive the advocacy action alerts via e-mail and stay informed about Habitat’s legislative priorities.

U.S. affiliate staff, volunteers and donors can advocate by visiting www.BuildLouder.org today. This new Web page has been created specifically for HFH affiliates and support organizations, so you can be assured that no one who takes action at www.BuildLouder.org will receive fund-raising materials from HFHI as a result of doing so.

Once you have taken action or signed up to be an advocate, you’ll start receiving advocacy action alerts. When important housing-related legislation comes up for a vote in Congress, HFHI will alert you via e-mail to request that you take action and make your voice heard.

Recent successes

In the summer of 2007, Habitat completed an online campaign that helped recruit more than 8,500 volunteers to advocate for post-disaster housing legislation in Congress. In addition to rebuilding the U.S. Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, Habitat advocated for better government policies relating to the housing needs of families affected by disasters.

Habitat’s new advocates used the online tool to e-mail senators and encourage them to support legislation that would establish a National Commission on Children and Disasters. The commission would include a housing expert who could make recommendations to the president and Congress that would help ensure vulnerable families are able to find housing after another disaster strikes.

In December 2007, the Kids in Disasters Well-being, Safety and Health (WISH) Act of 2007 was passed by Congress and signed by the president. This is a tremendous victory, and Habitat will continue to support efforts that change systems, policies and attitudes that move us toward achieving decent housing for all.

Since this first online effort, our advocacy network has expanded to include more than 28,000 supporters who push for action on a variety of national and international issues. Thousands of advocates have now taken action in support of the GROWTH Act (Global Resources and Opportunity for Women to Thrive Act). This act creates an “incentive fund” within the U.S. Agency for International Development to actively encourage economic opportunity projects in developing countries that incorporate women’s needs. It provides women with a range of tools to lift themselves out of poverty by:

  • Enhancing women’s land and property rights.
  • Helping women to start and grow businesses.
  • Helping women get better jobs and make women’s jobs better.
  • Helping ensure that the benefits of trade reach poor women.

Advocacy is already supplementing our mission of building houses with those in need and allowing us to serve even more families. If you’d like to learn more about Habitat’s advocacy efforts, visit www.habitat.org/gov. If you haven’t done so already, take action today by using Habitat’s online advocacy tool!

Colleen Fitzgerald, associate director of grassroots advocacy, has worked for HFHI for three years. Before coming to Habitat, she worked on Capitol Hill for a U.S. senator. She attended Pennsylvania State University, where she was involved in the campus chapter of Habitat.

She can be contacted at CFitzgerald@habitat.org.