Our group was made of roughly 20 people from our state at the conference, and about 8 of us went on hill visits on Wednesday. I was very glad to have had a chance to experience hill visits in April, and knew a little bit what to expect. It did feel as though everyone else on these visits was a seasoned veteran, but at least I had some experience to draw on! We had such excellent packets prepared for us by the NAEH staff — everything we needed to be able to carry out the visit was in there.
We spoke primarily about fully funding McKinney, about Section 8 vouchers, and about the fact that we see growing demand for services and shrinking resources at the local level.
We had a nice mixture of people, including someone from local government (City Office of Housing), someone who works with a large local funder of services and housing for homeless families, a woman who runs survival services in a rural part of the state, and the ED of a private social service organization and day labor agency (which does not accept public funds but sees the urgent need for federal funding and policies that help end homelessness), as well as someone from the major homelessness advocacy group in the County (me). Good range of people to offer their take on these issues to the staffers.
I came prepared to invite both Senators and their staff to specific events in our state during the August recess, and I plan to write a thank you note to each of them that repeats that invitation. I surprised myself by doing something I hadn’t planned to do, namely inviting Senator Murray during the Wednesday morning coffee to attend our backpack-stuffing day for Project Cool for Back-to-School. I did not want to put her on the spot, but it seemed like a nice opportunity to let her know that we appreciated her work on behalf of children who are homeless.
What happened really surprised me — two other constituents who were at the morning coffee came up to say that they wanted to help, too — one was a school nurse in two districts in our County with high numbers of children who are homeless, and one was a psychotherapist in private practice with children and adolescents. They were both visiting with their children and husbands (who were at different conventions in town), and both immediately gave me their contact information. The nurse told me that she struggles when a child comes to her with a stomach ache, and she knows she has to ask when the child last ate something, knowing that in some cases it may be two days ago. Her school sends children home with backpacks filled with food for the weekend, but she wants to do more. And, Sen. Murray’s education staffer was standing right there, so they got to hear that it’s not only the people who came for the NAEH conference who care a lot about this issue. Sarah Bolton was very gracious, and asked me to follow up with her about the invitation to the Senator.
Thank you to the NAEH conference folks for helping to offset the costs of registration for me. It made a big difference for our small organization to be able to afford to send me to my first NAEH conference.