The Louisiana Housing Alliance (LHA), an NLIHC state coalition partner, hosted its annual State Housing and Homelessness Conference in Baton Rouge on April 13-15. For the first time, LHA expanded the conference to include state Continuums of Care (CoCs), which coordinate and provide services for homeless populations. This new format offered advocates, policy makers, developers, and direct service providers an opportunity to collaborate with and learn from one another. The new conference model endeavors to unify affordable housing and homelessness advocacy across Louisiana.
For several years, LHA has been working to expand their collaboration with CoCs in an effort to bring together advocates from across the affordable housing spectrum and to empower direct service providers with information regarding policy, advocacy, and development. LHA’s 2016 conference proved the ideal venue to launch this collaboration. LHA Executive Director and NLIHC Board Member Marla Newman and LHA Deputy Director Sidni Lloyd-Shorter joined with Randy Nichols, LHA board chair and CEO of the Capital Area Alliance for the Homeless, a Baton Rouge CoC, to plan the conference. Together, they created an agenda relevant and informative for direct service providers as well as for developers and advocates, the traditional audience of the LHA conference. The conference grew to 300 attendees, 150% of previous conferences.
The inclusion of CoCs allowed direct service providers to learn about a variety of housing programs and policies designed to increase their clients’ access to affordable housing. Sessions on federal affordable housing funding sources, including one on the National Housing Trust Fund led by NLIHC’s Ed Gramlich, helped inform direct service providers of programs about which they previously had not been aware. Ms. Newman said that bringing together direct service providers and developers also helped those involved in affordable housing development and funding understand the need for supplementary affordable housing services.
“Including state CoCs in our State Housing and Homelessness Conference was hugely successful,” said Ms. Newman. “The participants agreed overwhelmingly that we should continue this format in future years. My hope is that in reaching additional supporters of affordable housing in Louisiana, we will gain new allies in our mission.”