The value of advocacy for Habitat for Humanity -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

The value of advocacy for Habitat for Humanity

By Jenny Russell

The advocacy work of Habitat for Humanity is designed to identify and address the fundamental causes of insufficient housing worldwide, and thus dramatically increase people’s access to affordable housing.

Using the “one house at a time” model, Habitat has built nearly 300,000 houses in 30 years. Habitat can increase exponentially the number of houses we build by adding advocacy to our successful building efforts. Joining with other anti-poverty organizations, HFHI has already had a dramatic impact on housing policies, programs and funding sources.

Habitat’s affiliates, SSOs and national organizations have launched critical advocacy initiatives with partners and families in the United States and abroad, consistent with HFHI’s 2006–11 Strategic Plan, which states, “By 2011, HFHI will help lead the transformation of systems that impact affordable housing” (Goal 3).

Advocacy has many different connotations. Lobbying and raising awareness are major components of advocacy, but HFHI also considers it important to focus on broader change, including education, grass-roots organizing, coalition-building, media communications and assessing impact. The official HFHI definition of advocacy is, “Changing systems, policies, and attitudes to achieve decent housing for all.” This includes, “working to influence public opinion and transform systems that lead to the creation and preservation of housing for all, toward the goal of ending poverty worldwide.”

Though they are essential aspects of Habitat’s mission, fund raising and educating others about Habitat’s work are not considered advocacy at HFHI; nor is lobbying for specific candidates or political parties.

Habitat’s advocacy work is grounded in our Christian values. Habitat takes seriously the call of Christ to be in ministry with the poor and transforms this belief into efforts to alleviate poverty worldwide. We believe that Habitat can best respond to Christ’s call to end poverty by using its reputation, influence, commitment and knowledge contending with the challenge of housing and the poor and impress upon the world the importance of this critical issue.[1]

There are many ways to advocate with Habitat:

  • Organize an activity to raise awareness and advocate, addressing the worldwide problem of poverty housing for World Habitat Day on Oct. 6, 2008.
  • Support HFHI’s U.S. advocacy campaign in 2009 focused on security of tenure by sending the Government Relations and Advocacy Office (GRA) stories about your work on land titling, property grabbing or other tenure security work in your country to share with U.S. government officials.
  • If you’re a U.S. citizen, sign up for the online tool to send letters to members of Congress about Habitat’s legislative priorities.
  • Attend the annual Habitat on the Hill legislative and advocacy conference.
  • Work with Habitat’s national office to research local housing policies, develop a “wish list” of policy changes, build a coalition and create a plan to advocate for solutions.
  • Look at the Government Relations and Advocacy page of for tools and resources.

Jenny Russell is the managing director of advocacy at HFHI’s Washington office. She can be reached at

[1] Advocacy Management Team Report and Recommendations, October 2005, p. 6