Two weeks or so out from the excitement of the election, it may seem that not much has changed in the grand scheme of things. Not so! Due to redistricting, retirement, resignation, and competitive races, there will be many new faces around Capitol Hill this January. Already last Tuesday, eighty or so members of the freshman class of the 113th Congress arrived on Capitol Hill for their New Member Orientation. With all those new Members and with committee selections to be finalized around February, we can expect a lot of new people will be occupying significant decision-making positions.
New Members will likely begin considering a wide array of issues and forming relationships with advocates early on. So, for advocates who want to help Members-elect better understand the issue of homelessness in their districts, the next few months will be a crucial time to pick up or begin the conversation around homelessness. With federal budget issues looming large and the new Congress set to take up federal spending issues soon after their swearing-in, we need to engage and educate these new Members on solutions to homelessness and the importance of making ending homelessness a federal priority.
Here are some effective approaches for educating or connecting with your new Member before they arrive in DC in January for their swearing in:
- Request a meeting with the Member before they begin their term. Often, you can find contact information for your new Member on their campaign’s website. Contacting a member of campaign staff through a general campaign email address or campaign phone number could be a simple but effective way of reaching your new Member.
- Write an Op-Ed in your local paper directed at your new Member. Call on the new Member to make ending homelessness a federal priority and a focus of their work in Congress. Explain what homelessness looks like in your community and what the Member-elect should do to support your programs and efforts. An Op-Ed will have the added benefit of reaching a wider audience and educating others in your community about homelessness locally.
- Send your new Member information about homelessness in your district. Sending a letter is an equally great way of opening the lines of communication and creating a dialogue around homelessness. Members will have a lot on their plates as soon as they arrive on the Hill, so make sure your letter is concise and offers data and a clear ask of your Member to focus on the issue of homelessness. Follow up on your letter when the Member has an established office in January.
- Reach out to your Member in early January. If you are unable to reach your Member-elect while they are still at home, consider reaching out to them in January. If the member hasn’t established a full staff yet, work with the member’s Chief of Staff to pass your message along on making ending homelessness a federal priority.
If you have any questions about these advocacy actions, just let us know and we’ll be happy to help you strategize and reach out! Finally, if you have a reason to believe that your newly-elected Member of Congress might be supportive of efforts to prevent and end homelessness, or if you have a connection to a new member or their campaign, please share the name of that member with us!
Elections always provide opportunities for change. The impact the results of this election will have on the issue of homelessness will depend on how successful those of us who care deeply about this issue are in educating our representatives and ensuring that they make ending it a priority. With change in the air and tough budgetary decisions ahead, there is truly no time like the present to advocate on the behalf of the most vulnerable members of our society.