I’ve been a Real Change vendor for going on five years. I am homeless and also an advocate for homeless people, working with Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance and the Resident Action Project (RAP), a coalition that is building power to change policy through storytelling, organizing and civic action. RAP has been in operation for three years and serves people with housing instability or homelessness.
Through this program, I have gotten the opportunity to attend a cross-training workshop in Oakland, California. The training, which was hosted by the Center for Community Change, was designed to help members of RAP sync up with members of a similar, California-based group, Resident United Network (RUN).
The first cross-training between RUN, which has membership all over California, and RAP took place last year in Seattle. This year, residents of both Washington and California were in attendance. The purpose of the three-day training was to develop leaders with RUN and RAP who “can be top-tier leaders in their state work” and continue to build momentum for the group.
The training began with something a little different – an icebreaker called “NASA Exercise: Survival on the Moon.” In it, participants are asked to individually evaluate the importance of various items for survival on the moon. Items include a compass, water, matches, oxygen and more.
The idea was to teach participants how to create a backup plan, in case something goes wrong – things do happen. The group that I was involved in was right about the most important – oxygen – but got only three of the 15 in the right order. But that just tells me that I should pay more attention to what happens in space.
We also evaluated our leadership types. There are five styles of leadership – visionary, task, strategic, process and ethical. I found myself most associated with a task leadership style, which means I’m a person who creates efficient plans, holds people accountable and manages details. I was the least like the process leader, which is involved with conflict resolution and tends to take care of others in the movement.
This made sense to me. At Real Change, I’m the Vendor Advisory Board President. In that role, I struggle to not take on everything all the time; I’m always working to let others help me out. That skill is just as important as the others and I’m working on that.
On the second day, we got down to business. That included phone banking and door-knocking, where we called and spoke to people in the community about political activities, including bills, candidate elections and community meetings. We also learned about the policies that RUN is working on.
Currently, the members of RUN are organizing for two important bills: Prop 1, called the Veterans and Affordable Housing Act, and Prop 2, which would use the tax revenue of millionaires to build housing.
Both of these are very important bills. Prop 1 would raise $4 billion to build state-owned affordable housing. This construction would create an estimated 137,000 jobs! Meanwhile,
Prop 2 would provide $2 billion in revenue bonds for homelessness prevention, including $1 billion for mental health services.
Together, these bills would provide more than $6 billion toward homelessness services.
On the third day, we learned about how to host something called a “Power Hour,” which is designed to educate voters on a big issue.
In this case, we were talking about Props 1 and 2.
During the Power Hour, we also help attendees think of people they may know and could recruit to help out with the work.
One thing I learned from this: Always have an interpreter.
At our Power Hour, we needed a Spanish interpreter. It’s important to have someone there to make sure everyone can understand.
To finish the training, we turned in our homework – but it wasn’t like homework you had in school. On the first day, we were told to write or draw our vision. At the end of the training, we were asked to stand up and share our vision.
My vision was that by this time next year, I would be in a house. I also envisioned that our work in Washington would catch on in other states and that more people will join the fight for more affordable housing.
I would to love to see a world with no more homelessness. I see that light, but we still have a long ways to go.
Check out the full Aug. 29 - Sept. 4 issue.
Real Change is a non-profit organization advocating for economic, social and racial justice. Since 1994 our award-winning weekly newspaper has provided an immediate employment opportunity for people who are homeless and low income. Learn more about Real Change.