For the past several years, the Louisiana Housing Alliance (LHA), an NLIHC State Coalition Partner, has engaged in statewide Listening Tours at the end of August. The Listening Tour was an opportunity to meet people face-to-face with whom LHA staff had only communicated electronically throughout the year. The primary purpose of these tours was to directly learn members’ and constituents’ issue priorities in order to inform LHA’s state-level policy initiatives.
This year, LHA has redesigned the Listening Tour to ensure ongoing engagement with their members, partners, and constituents regarding the issues that matter most in their communities. While information gathered from the Listening Tour will still inform LHA’s work in Baton Rouge, the state capital, the new structure is intended to also yield specific, positive outcomes at the local level.
When LHA met with Listening Tour participants in nine different regions of the state this August, each session focused on the housing-related issues of the greatest relevance in the region. For example, in the Shreveport/Bossier City region, the conversation addressed the capacity of local community development corporations, landlord accountability, and “succession.” Succession is the same as heirship in probate situations, when land is tied up because some families do not go through the legal process that will ensure land is properly passed down from one heir or generation to the next.
In each region, a leader emerged from the discussions who could help prioritize issues and coordinate the development of an action plan to address them. LHA will remain in contact with each of these regional leaders and provide capacity-building resources to support their action plans. In addition, LHA has contracted with a community engagement and capacity-building expert, and engaged the service of two AmeriCorps members. The sole function of these additional staff over the next 11 months will be to support implementation of the regional action plans.
LHA’s new Listening Tour structure is a systemic model for addressing housing and community development needs that simultaneously informs state legislative work and directly engages local community-defined issues. While the success of this model relies on the involvement of local practitioners, LHA is optimistic about the potential to bring about concrete, positive outcomes for communities across Louisiana. For more information, contact Marla Newman, Executive Director, Louisiana Housing Alliance, firstname.lastname@example.org