On February 3, Housing Colorado, in partnership with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, both NLIHC state partners, held the annual Day Under the Dome, a lobby day event. Organizers deemed the event, attended by a record-setting 110 advocates, a success, with key legislation presented at the event being signed into law weeks later.
The event kicked off with a session on the “Do’s and Don’ts” of lobbying presented by State Senator Pat Steadman (D). Sen. Steadman spoke from his personal experience with lobbying, having worked as a lobbyist before becoming a legislator. He described the importance of building relationships with legislators year-round. Participants were given an opportunity to move toward building this relationship during a luncheon with legislators. The luncheon allowed constituents to meet with their legislators over a causal meal and provided an opportunity for legislators to gain a deeper understanding of how the full spectrum of affordable housing issues impacts citizens across the state. A keynote presentation by State Senate President Brandon Shaffer (D) was followed by an engaging question and answer session with attendees.
Concluding the luncheon, a resident leader gave personal testimony demonstrating the importance of federal and local housing and supportive programs. She testified about how losing her job led to homelessness and the emergence of stress-related mental health issues, and declared that housing with onsite supportive services and counseling helped her out of that situation. Advocates and legislators say the testimony was extremely helpful for those who are not personally familiar with the experience of homelessness to gain a deeper understanding of the importance of linking housing with employment and health services.
In the afternoon, when many attendees went directly to the Capitol to lobby, less-experienced advocates were offered an opportunity to receive training in the “Advocacy Academy” track. This new addition to Day Under the Dome allowed participants who wanted more support and context before meeting with legislators to review lobbying techniques, ask clarifying questions about lobby materials and the legislative process, and take a virtual tour of the Capitol.
“Advocacy Academy evolved from a discussion with volunteers, to answer the questions ‘how do we make housing advocacy more accessible?’ and ‘how do we grow the next generation of advocates for issues related to the continuum of housing,’” said Sarah Harman, Director of Advocacy Programs at Housing Colorado. “Participants said that after the Academy session they could really see themselves in the role of advocate and feeling more comfortable in the Capitol.”
The extension of the state’s foreclosure deferment program, established in 2009, was one of the major housing bills advocates urged legislators to pass during lobby visits. The program, which was scheduled to sunset on June 8, 2011, helps families stay in their homes by giving responsible borrowers a 90-day “time-out” to work with their lenders to avoid foreclosure. Advocates saw the fruit of their labors when on March 1, 2011, newly-elected Governor John Hickenlooper made this the first bill signed into law, postponing the sunset to 2014.
For more information contact Sarah Harman, Director of Advocacy Programs, Housing Colorado, email@example.com