ReFrame Goes To Washington

Posted By: Becca Davis News,

We hosted our first advocacy event on March 28 & 29. Nine members of ReFrame Association participated in meetings with housing-related nonprofits, federal agencies, elected officials, and their staffs. The goal of the trip was to share stories about how home repairs change the lives of those living in substandard conditions, and to learn more about and advocate for home repair funds. One participant said, “In the lobbying alone, one can see the tremendous impact ReFrame will have in the years to come.” 

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Left to right: Brian Smith (U.M. ARMY), Don Taylor (Chesapeake Housing Mission), Jay Clark (Carolina Rebuilding Ministry), Becca Davis (ReFrame Association), Lance George (Housing Assistance Council), Joe Huggins (Home Works of America).

We kicked off the event at a lunch meeting with nearly 20 staff from Housing Assistance Council. It was an open discussion about funding sources for home repairs, the challenges our organizations are facing, and opportunities for collaboration. Lance George, Director of Research and Information at HAC, is a member of the ReFrame Advocacy Task Force; we really appreciated that he organized this brown bag lunch & learn for us!

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Left to right: Curtis Anderson (USDA), Walter Crouch (Appalachia Service Project), Jim Garrett (Kentucky Emergency Management)

Next, we met with Curtis Anderson, the Chief of Staff of Rural Housing Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. We discussed the Section 504 Home Repair program and how we might advocate for more of the funds to be grants instead of loans, and for funding to go to nonprofits instead of homeowners (much like how HUD’s CDBG funds are distributed). We also talked about how the key to rural housing is healthcare.

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Left to right: Jim Garrett (Kentucky Emergency Management), Brian Smith (U.M. Army), Becca Davis (ReFrame Association), Joe Huggins (Home Works of America), Jay Clark (Carolina Rebuilding Ministry), Melanie James (Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry), Walter Crouch (Appalachia Service Project)

We enjoyed dinner at a Mediterranean restaurant where we shared delicious tapas and meat platters. Spending time with each other over meals and between meetings was a highlight for everyone. One attendee commented, “The event was FANTASTIC! I really appreciated that there were few people present because we were able to share and gain knowledge easily from each other.”

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Pictured: Joey Lindstrom (National Low-Income Housing Coalition)

On Friday morning, we joined the National Low-Income Housing Coalition at the United Methodist Building (located next to the Supreme Court) for their lobby day kick-off. Joey Lindstrom, NLIHC’s Manager for Field Organizing, is an individual member of ReFrame Association and a participant in the ReFrame Advocacy Task Force. He was instrumental in helping our participants schedule meetings with Representatives and Senators. We enjoyed meeting other housing advocates and learning more about various pieces of housing legislation. It was wonderful to be in Washington when the cherry blossoms were blooming!

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Left to right: Brian Smith (U.M. Army), Becca Davis (Appalachia Service Project), Walter Crouch (Appalachia Service Project), Richard Youngblood (HUD), Julia Haller (HUD), Melanie James (Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry), Don Taylor (Chesapeake Housing Mission)

Then we met with the Director of the Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiative (Richard Youngblood, a political appointee) and the Senior Advisor for the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (Julia Haller, a lawyer) at HUD. We talked about challenges that religious nonprofits face, how we might connect with the faith-based officers at other federal agencies, and ways that faith-based ReFrame members can access federal funds.

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Pictured: Elysium Drumm (VA)

We had an interesting meeting with the Chief of Strategic Planning, Research and Communications (Elysium Drumm), and the Program Management Officer (Debi Stewart) for the Home Loan Program at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. We discussed home repair loan programs for veterans and brainstormed ways to create a new fund for home repairs for veterans (off-set by savings in healthcare and homeless prevention.) 


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Our final meeting was with Brent Merchant, Principal & Co-Founder of Merchant McIntyre Associates, a lobbying firm located near the White House that has worked with Appalachia Service Project. Brent generously volunteered to connect with ReFrame Association regularly while we continue to refine our advocacy goals. See his presentation notes: Why NGOs Should Engage the Federal Government.

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Left image: Becca Davis (ReFrame Association), Don Taylor (Chesapeake Housing Mission), Melanie James (Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry), Jim Garrett (Kentucky Emergency Management), and Walter Crouch (Appalachia Service Project). Right image: Walter Crouch (Appalachia Service Project), and Senator Joe Manchin (West Virginia).

Throughout the two days, trip participants visited offices of their Senators and Representativess. We invited them to attend events, talked about the federal funds we use, and started (or in other cases, continued) forming relationships with the legislative staffers.

Also, prior to ReFrame Washington, Jim Garrett (Kentucky Emergency Management) attended the Spotlight Forum on Housing Innovation & Best Practices for Disaster Recovery & Resilience, which was hosted by the Institute for Sustainable Development, Fannie Mae, and FEMA. Jay Clark (Carolina Rebuilding Ministry) attended the National Low-Income Housing Coalition’s Housing Policy Forum

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 Street art on the wall of a homeless shelter, within walking distance of the U.S. Capitol.

What’s Next?

There will be two break-out sessions at ReFrame Conference this November related to Advocacy. We offered Advocacy 101 last year (view recording), and we’ll present Advocacy 102 & 103 this year. One session will be an in-depth review of our trip, and the other will be information about advocating at the state and local level. We hope you’ll join us; register now for the conference! We also plan to offer another ReFrame Washington trip in the future.