We are in the final stretch of the election season! Millions of voters have already filled out their ballots, but most Americans will cast their votes in the next 10 days. And whether you vote in-person or drop your ballot in the mail, the most important part of the process is deciding who you want to represent you.
While much of the focus of this election is on the presidential election at the top of the ticket, state and local lawmakers — like mayors, city council members, county commissioners, state legislators, and governors — play a leading role in how local governments address homelessness. Their actions are critical to prevent housing instability, ensure people experiencing homelessness receive services, and provide the proper funding and support to our local systems that respond to homelessness.
Ensuring Data is Embedded into Solutions to End Homelessness
Ending homelessness in America will take major changes at every level of government. And while there are many policies that can address housing and homelessness—such as Housing First, rental assistance and eviction prevention programs, decriminalization of homelessness, and land use and zoning rules, to name a few—we know that ending homelessness requires a data-driven approach.
However, determining how a candidate might address homelessness is not always easy. Here are a few ideas on how to assess if your candidates may approach homelessness with the data-driven approach that is needed.
Do Your Research
As you review who your candidates are and decide whom to support, consider how each stands on policies that aim to measurably end homelessness, like collecting real-time data, making this data publicly available, and setting measurable goals for reducing or ending homelessness.
A basic internet search can help you find clues about your candidates’ stance on key issues. Like topics such as health care, education, and the environment, candidates should develop and state clear policy solutions to housing and homelessness.
- Does the candidate have a policy platform dedicated to housing and homelessness?
- Do they have a data-driven approach to policy challenges? For example, do they have a track record of utilizing information to make decisions that affect a number of people?
- Does their economic plan address housing shortages and barriers?
- Do they have a collaborative approach to policy challenges?
The best time to educate a lawmaker is when they are a candidate.
Questions for Local, State, and Federal Candidates
When running for office, candidates are actively in listening mode. They are talking to voters and typically sharing information about themselves and their approach to community and policy challenges.
Candidates reach out to their voters through phone calls, texts, and maybe even a masked door-knocker. While you might want to decline these calls or not answer your door, these are excellent opportunities to educate your candidates through their volunteers about homelessness and ways to solve it!
Here are some examples of questions you can ask your candidates, if you get the chance.
- How knowledgeable are you about homelessness in our community or state?
- Do you support setting measurable goals for reducing and ending homelessness in our city or state? Why or why not?
- Like the uninsured rate or jobless rate, would you commit to tracking and publicly sharing the number of people in our community or state experiencing homelessness, month over month? Would you commit to sharing the steps you are taking to solve it?
- Access to affordable housing is a piece of the puzzle to end homelessness. How would you expand access to affordable housing in our community or state?
After the election season, your advocacy can still continue. Once your lawmakers seated, you can follow up to remind them of your conversation and share how you can work together to end homelessness.