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Strategies for Engaging Congress: Building a Long Term Relationship With a Congressional Office Hazel L. Weiss, M.A., M.S. Co-chair, National Shelter Plus Care Coalition Housing and Community Development Manager Alameda County Housing and Community Development Department 224 W. Winton Avenue, Room 108, Hayward, CA 94544 [email protected] (510) 670-5941 www.acgov.org/cda/hcd July 13, 2011 1

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Strategies for Engaging Congress:Building a Long Term Relationship

With a Congressional Office

Hazel L. Weiss, M.A., M.S.Co-chair, National Shelter Plus Care CoalitionHousing and Community Development ManagerAlameda County Housing and Community Development Department 224 W. Winton Avenue, Room 108, Hayward, CA 94544Hazel.we[email protected] (510) 670-5941 www.acgov.org/cda/hcd July 13, 2011


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Building A Long Term Relationship With A Congressional Office

• What does it look like?• How to get there• How to keep it going


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It could look like this:Representative Fortney “Pete” Stark (D) California

Advocacy Visit, Washington D.C. February 2003


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Or this:

Senator Barbara Boxer (D) CaliforniaHill Day July 2010


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Q: What is it we are actually doing?A: Public Policy Advocacy

• Public policy advocacy is the effort to influence public policy through various forms of persuasive communication. Public policy includes statements, policies, or prevailing practices imposed by those in authority to guide or control institutional, community, and sometimes individual behavior.

Optimal Health INFO Project,, “A” Frame for Advocacy, John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USAID, Baltimore, MD, Available athttp://info.k4health.org/pr/advocacy/index.shtml retrieved July 8,



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Q: Why are we doing it?

There is no better strategy for impacting

federal policy than advocacy


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! Members of Congress are much more likely to focus on ending homelessness if they understand how it affects people and programs in their district. The more they hear from constituents about how programs are preventing and ending homelessness in their district, the more likely they are to act. It's up to us to convince our Members of Congress to take action! (Sound familiar?)


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“The cornerstone of successful advocacy is building relationships

with policymakers, such as by calling, writing, and meeting with them, or

inviting them to visit a local homelessness program.”

Available at http://www.endhomelessness.org/section/policy/advocacy, Retrieved July 7, 2011.


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Creating a Relationship: How to get thereGet to know your member–Her/his policy and programmatic areas

of interest and focus–Constituency Base–Committee Assignments–Affiliations and Alliances


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Do your homework!• The Member’s website is a gold mine of

information• www.[Member last name].house.gov• www.[Senator last name].senate.gov – About the Senator– Issues and Legislation– “Newsroom”

• Get on your Member’s mailing lists for notices from the D.C. and District Offices


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Maintaining a Relationship: How to Keep it Going

ContinuityAdvocacy like communication is an ongoing process rather than a single policy or piece of legislation. Planning for continuity means articulating long-term goals, keeping functional coalitions together, and keeping data and arguments in tune with changing situations.

Communication• THANK YOU LETTERS• Site Visits• District Events


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• Weigh in on your issue /related issues• Thank you’s for– A vote– A speech– A position– A press release– An event

• Provide updates on your issue (s)• Find ways to interact e.g. “Telephone Town Halls”Good Resource:Using Everyday Communications to Build Congressional Relationshipshttp://www.endhomelessness.org/content/article/detail/370


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THANK YOU’sWhat would, should, could I thank her for?

• Hearth Act • McKinney Approps Letter • HUD-VASH Appropriations Sign-on Letter • Homes for Heroes• Ending Veterans Homelessness • RHYA Appropriations Sign-on Letter • Full Year Continuing Appropriations


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What else would, should, could I thank her for?

• What issues are of personal interest to you? E.g. Multiple Sclerosis, Green buildings and technology, foster children

Q: Is your Member concerned about any of those issues?

A: Rep. Barbara Lee (D) 9th District of California has a sister who has lived with MS for many years.

A: Green building and technology is a high priority for Rep. Jerry McNerney.


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Face to Face

• Face to face communication at– Formal meetings e.g. Hill day Visit– District events and activities• Town Hall Meetings• Member-sponsored holiday party• Special events e.g. “A conversation with Rep. Barbara

Lee and Secretary of Labor under President Clinton, Dr. Robert Reich• Fundraisers


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Next Congress At Your Corner Hosted By McNerney To Be Held In Pleasanton

June 28, 2011Pleasanton, CA – Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-11) today announced he will hold a Congress

at Your Corner on Friday, July 1st, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the library in Pleasanton, located at 400 Old Bernal Avenue.

“I’m firmly committed to being accessible to the people I represent,” said Rep. McNerney. “Over the past four years, I’ve held dozens of these events and always enjoy the opportunity to hear directly from the people I represent. I encourage people to come share their thoughts and ideas with me.”

Since taking office in 2007, Congressman McNerney has become known for holding Congress at Your Corner events at community locations such as libraries and coffee shops. Over the years, hundreds of people have attended these events to share their opinions and ask for assistance resolving issues with a federal agency. The event on Friday will mark the 65th Congress at Your Corner hosted by Congressman McNerney.

At this Congress at Your Corner Rep. McNerney will meet with small groups of people in 30 minute segments based on the order in which they arrive.

Upcoming Congress at Your Corner time and location:Friday, July 1, 20112:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Pleasanton Library400 Old Bernal AvenuePleasanton, CA 94566 Source: http://mcnerney.house.gov Retrieved July 8, 2011 16

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Get to know the staffers!

• Find out which staff works on your issue– Call and ask!– contact NAEH– Find out who the Schedulers are in the D.C. and District offices– Keep up with staff turnover. (new staff need your expertise even

more!– Invite staff for site visits too!

• Stay in touch by– Email updates on your issue – Send relevant newspaper articles and press clippings– Call or write (fax or via email) with specific requests– Become the “Go To” person on your issue


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In Summary

• Do your homework to create the relationship, don’t overlook the obvious!

• Communicate frequently in writing and in person• Get to know the staffers• Become a valuable resource about your issue for

your Member• Represent; yourself as a constituent, your

agency, the local, and even the national constituency for your issue


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