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12th April
2012
written by Kate Seif

Inviting your Member of Congress or other elected official to visit and tour your homeless assistance program can be one of the most impactful ways to interact with them and engage them in the movement to end homelessness.  Site visits involve letting your representatives or senators see first-hand how your program operates and help them meet with staff and consumers, so that they can make the connection between your program working to end homelessness in their district, and the legislation they work on every day in Washington, DC.

So how and when can you conduct a site visit?  This blog will give you a little more background, and your opportunity is coming soon! The House and Senate will be in recess, working back in the districts, from April 30 to May 4! With several federal funding bills expected to be released in the coming weeks, the May recess offers a perfect opportunity to explain the importance of increasing federal homelessness funding to better service people at risk of or experiencing homelessness in their districts.

Site visits can be quick tours, or more involved events including speakers and the media.  Both are effective, and which type you plan depends on your Member’s availability and your goals for the site visit. Most importantly, you should pick one to two policy issues on which to focus.  This will depend largely on your specific program and the types of federal funds you use.  For example, do you serve homeless people with McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants? Do you serve youth? Veterans? You should choose a policy issue to discuss with your Member of Congress based on what matters most to your program.

The congressional office you’re working with may want to include press coverage, which is a great opportunity to raise awareness on the issue for both you and the Member of Congress. You should also consider getting your local partners involved in the planning process and actual site visit.  Consider inviting other key stakeholders in your community who may be able to help encourage the Member of Congress to attend.

Throughout the site visit, make sure that whatever the Member is seeing or hearing, including program outcomes, personal stories from consumers, and the unmet need in your community, is being connecting to the policy issue and “ask” you’re making of your Member.

The early May recess is truly an ideal time to connect with your Member on federal funding issues or other policy priorities.  If you’d like to conduct a site visit, we can help! You can use our advocacy toolkit for a step-by-step guide, or you can reach out to me at cseif@naeh.org for help deciding who to invite and on which policy issues to focus.  We’re here to help in any way you need and can’t wait to hear about all the visits Members of Congress will be doing to homeless assistance programs in May!

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