In November 2020, we made three important decisions relating to systems advocacy at HAP.
First, we decided we need to simply do more of it. While we have always had some involvement in advancing the causes important to our clients on a city, state, and federal level, these forward-thinking efforts admittedly took a back seat to our direct service. The unfortunate and unavoidable truth, however, is that there are far more people experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia than our modest staff can serve individually, and the only way for us to have an impact on the general homeless population is through broader, forward-thinking systems advocacy. If we can change a policy here or a practice there, who knows how many cases we can prevent before they ever have a chance to arise.
Second, we decided that these advocacy efforts needed to be better coordinated from within, and therefore warranted a more formal internal structure. We named longtime HAP attorney Michael Taub our advocacy director, and formed an advocacy committee on which many of our staff sit and serve. So many of us are passionate about the issues affecting our people, and so we made sure to tap into that passion by giving a seat at the table to any HAPster who wants one.
Our third decision was to prioritize these efforts according to need as it’s felt in the community, and not just according to us. Among other disparities between HAP and the community we serve, we are much whiter, and so for example if we want to prioritize racial justice and equity among our advocacy objectives (we do) then those objectives need to be informed by that same community. We accordingly took efforts to form new relationships with social service providers and community members; all of our efforts since 2020 are responsive to what they had to say.
Here’s a few of those efforts.