[Holly back in February advocating for affordable housing at Habitat on the Hill]
How big is your team?
We have two full-time advocacy people — one of whom is on maternity leave (congrats, Rachel!)
What is your department’s top priority right now?
Our main priority is to continue advocating for increased access to affordable housing in our community. We know that COVID-19 has drastically impacted the families we serve and beyond, so we are prioritizing advocacy efforts around this impact. That includes increasing communication with our partners (such as the advocacy committee, other housing groups, housing nonprofit coalition, and other Habitat affiliates), researching and interpreting relevant legislation, and sending action alerts when we want to mobilize our community (Interested in receiving these? Sign up here).
How has COVID-19 impacted your team, and how are they working around it?
Thankfully, I am able to work remotely from home. However, remote work has impacted some capabilities, especially for outreach efforts. Since regular meetings with nonprofit partners are such an important aspect of advocacy work, I have been participating in a LOT of Zoom conference calls. Well-functioning technology is a huge plus right now. A large ongoing priority for us right now is ongoing conversations around the Raleigh affordable housing bond. Bill Ahern, our CEO, chairs the communications subcommittee of the bond stakeholder group, which was planning several in-person community outreach events. Due to social distancing, those events have been canceled. To work around this issue and still gain the important input from Raleigh residents, we are working with the City to put together a survey and will be performing increased social-media outreach.
What are some examples of the day-to-day work you are doing?
My work remains focused on advocating for affordable housing and the vulnerable communities that have been or will be affected by the virus. Some examples of what I am up to are:
Zoom conferencing with coalition groups to share updates
Helping our CEO, Bill, with communication around Raleigh’s affordable housing bond, primarily by drafting a survey with City staff
Legislative research, primarily around the stimulus and relief programs being introduced for COVID-19 relief
Drafting action alerts to mobilize our supporters
LOTS of “help” from my cat/colleague (pictured below)
How is your work impacting Habitat homeowners and homebuyers?
Many habitat homeowners and potential homebuyers are being impacted by the virus, so advocacy work is crucial to protect them. Legislation like eviction moratoriums and the prohibition of the disconnection of utilities are good examples of ways we can protect our most vulnerable communities.
What is the biggest challenge to your department during this time?
Advocacy work is fueled by collaboration and public input, so that has been significantly inhibited with social distancing mandates. It was challenging transitioning to remote work, but now things are going very smoothly! That being said, I am excited to be back in the office to see everyone sometime soon.
What is making your team feel hopeful?
It has been incredibly inspiring to see the outpouring of support from nonprofit providers in our community. As the virus escalated, everyone was understandably concerned for nonprofits and the populations that they serve. Rather than becoming discouraged, several nonprofits joined together to share resources, advice, and well-wishes. I am so thankful to be working in such an empathetic and caring field. The shared support that I have felt makes me hopeful and confident that we will all bounce back stronger than before.