Creating the policy agenda is the most important part of our advocacy. In doing so, we relied on our core leaders, including members of the Regional Expert Network (REN), who are advocates who have lived experience of homelessness, and staff at organizations working to end homelessness. We organized listening sessions to identify the main solutions towards ensuring a person’s experience of homelessness is safe, rare, brief and nonrecurring. The only requirement for a policy change to be added to our agenda was that it was voiced by people currently experiencing or formerly experienced homelessness.
Once we had a comprehensive list of possible solutions, we worked with the REN to finalize the 2023 policy agenda and conducted research visits with State Agencies, Legislators and other leaders to ensure the best legislation possible. MCH has been trying out a variety of strategies to involve advocates desiring a more pronounced role in our advocacy, and in 2023, we created an MCH Strategy Team that provided leadership and accountability in our advocacy efforts throughout the legislative process. While we work closely with many partners, our relationship with the MN Tribal Collaborative has allowed us to ensure that MCH is creating and pushing legislation that includes, rather than excludes, tribes and also leverages their influence to pass important priorities towards ending homelessness. Finally, MCH continues to be a partner and leader within the Homes for All Coalition.
While each of our legislative priorities had separate bills, the 2023 legislative session took a unique path towards getting three of our priorities passed into law. You can read about all of our legislative outcomes on our website.
For the Emergency Services Program (ESP) and Shelter Capital, Representative Keeler and Senator Dibble created a package called “The Pathway Home Act” (which included other important programs, but for the sake of brevity, we will focus on MCH’s priorities). Thus, instead of going through the legislative process for each bill, we were able to put our advocacy efforts into the Pathway Home Act. The original goal was to pass the package early in the legislative session in order to avoid being a part of final negotiations, risking the possibility of being taken out of finalized legislation. The House of Representatives did pass the Act early on, unfortunately the Senate did not follow suit. Uncertainty over which Legislative Committee would have jurisdiction over the Pathway Home Act became a complicating factor. It went through the House Human Services, House Children & Family and the Senate Health & Human Services Committee before finding its final home in the Health & Human Services Conference Committee (which makes the final decisions). It’s important to note that at various points of the legislative session, we were sharing a budget with other very important issues, such as food insecurity, childcare and everything that is included within one of the biggest budgets in the State (Health & Human Services).
For the Family Homeless Prevention Assistance Program (FHPAP), the Legislature made a commitment to pass emergency rental assistance early, due to the rising number of evictions. FHPAP was identified as the best program to accomplish this and in March the Governor signed into law a one-time infusion of $50 million to be distributed as soon as possible. While this was exciting, in light of the huge need for this program, we did not let up our advocacy efforts and another $45 million was passed within the final Housing Budget. This brought the final total to a $95 million increase in one-time funding.
If you are reading this, it likely means you joined us in our advocacy efforts. In order to be transparent and to give you an overview of what our advocacy entailed, here are a few key ways we advocated together:
- Action Alerts: 6,340 messages sent by 1,480 people and 25% were customized by advocates.
- Social Media: Our social media was used to inform on the nature of statewide homelessness & the current state of resources available to people experiencing homelessness and service providers, keep advocates in the loop about what was happening at the Capitol, and lastly, informing the MN legislature on the need to invest in creating a safer and more dignified Minnesota. Your engagement was critical in spreading this information to a wider web and demonstrating to public officials that ending homelessness is a priority for Minnesotans.
- Testimony: MCH testified 7 times throughout the legislative session in support of our legislative agenda and other important issues. There were many more partners testifying on a variety of important pieces of legislation as well, which communicated a strong message to legislators that ending homelessness needed to be a legislative priority.
- Letters of Support: Each time we testified, we submitted letters of support. An exciting moment that highlighted the cohesion and power of our advocates & partners occurred as we approached the final deadline for bills to be heard. In under 24 hours, we drafted a letter of support that 80 organizations signed on to. It was crucial to be included in the budget of the Senate Health & Human Services Committee, but this proved to be a difficult feat. Additionally, we asked folx with lived experience to provide quotes about the impact of passing the legislation and we received 39 quotes, also in under 24 hours.
- Homeless Day on the Hill (DOTH): Over 800 people registered for DOTH, an outstanding turnout considering it was our first in-person DOTH since 2020.
- Media Coverage & Events: MCH led on or participated in four separate press conferences, including REN members and other partners. There was media coverage as well and you can find some of the articles here
While this was truly a fast paced legislative session, it led to the best victories for homelessness and housing we have ever seen. Please read an in-depth overview of what passed on our website, including what these wins mean for you and your community. Everything on our legislative agenda received significant funding and the impacts will be felt for years. Whether you joined us for the 2023 legislative session or any advocacy in past years, you played a key role in this happening!