The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO), an NLIHC state coalition partner, has joined a broad coalition of Ohio advocates to collect and highlight stories that demonstrate the positive impact of public support programs on the state’s most vulnerable residents and their communities. They hope the project, OhioSPEAKS, will be an effective tool in educating lawmakers, media, and the public about how health and human service programs strengthen families and communities.
Advocates for Ohio’s Future (AOF) is a coalition of 280 local and state organizations working to maintain vital public services at a level that meets people’s basic needs and protects Ohio’s most vulnerable populations. It launched OhioSPEAKS last fall with social service providers, assistance program recipients, and community, faith, and business leaders submitting written stories of 300 words or less, or videos of less than two minutes, which speak to the value and benefit of state and federal programs. These programs include the Ohio Housing Trust Fund, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (the food stamp program, or SNAP), homeless prevention efforts, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Head Start, subsidized job programs, and others.
“Every day, Ohioans are telling their stories, getting involved in public policy, and having an impact on state lawmakers and their communities,” said Will Petrik, AOF Outreach Director, describing how the project elevates the voice of Ohioans who typically are not at the table during policy conversations. “OhioSPEAKS is helping to make the people and their stories heard.”
AOF’s website features an interactive tool that allows users to select a specific Ohio county and view stories from citizens living there. It also provides county specific data, including the percentage of Medicaid participants, SNAP participants, the unemployment rate, and the percentage of those at or below 200% of the federal poverty line in each county. Visitors can view stories by topic, as well.
With the support of more than 60 partner organizations, AOF has gathered over 110 stories since November 2011. In April, advocates launched a social media campaign to further raise awareness. COHHIO joined these efforts by promoting OhioSPEAKS on Facebook and Twitter, sending email blasts to promote the effort and encourage individuals to submit stories, and dedicating part of its own website to the project. It also hosted informational webinars organized by AOF, devoted a workshop to the project at its annual conference, and encouraged its board members to promote the project through their own advocacy networks.
“We’ve seen the power that individual stories have on legislative efforts,” said Bill Faith, COHHIO Executive Director and NLIHC board member. “We think sharing the perspectives of OhioSPEAKS contributors with lawmakers and the media will become an increasingly important part of our advocacy toolkit.”
Visit the OhioSpeaks website at www.advocatesforohio.org/ohiospeaks.
Click here to watch the OhioSPEAKS promotional video.
For more information: Suzanne Gravette Acker, COHHIO Communications/Development Director, firstname.lastname@example.org or Will Petrik, AOF Outreach Director, email@example.com.