On Tuesday, April 18, Joining Forces took a team of 22 people to Springfield to advocate for two days. It was a remarkable and impactful trip. Here’s a gallery of photos from the trip and an overview!
Who Were the Springfield Advocates?
In the weeks leading up to this trip, we recruited advocates including:
With this mix of people, we were able to represent all sides of our issue! We are so grateful to all of our travelers!
What Were We Advocating For?
We were focused on two “asks” of our legislators in Springfield:
1. Pass Senate Bill 1476.
This bill amends the existing Affordable Housing Planning & Appeal Act (AHPAA), which requires municipalities to create affordable housing plans if less than 10% of their housing is affordable. Joining Forces assisted in writing this new bill, which requires municipalities subject to AHPAA to include tangible goals and strategies in their plans. The bill also allows community members to appeal municipal decisions against affordable housing and puts administrative changes in place to make it easier for the State of Illinois to implement the bill. This bill is a pre-cursor to future bills that will increase the level of affordability municipalities are required to meet. Stay tuned for next year!
2. Increase Housing-Related Line Items in the State Budget.
As legislators negotiate the budget, we shared the need for the following increases:
How Did We Get There & Where Did We Stay?
Since our group totaled 22 people, we went to Springfield in 3 vans and one car, with two people taking the train from Chicago. Many thanks to our drivers! We stayed overnight at a hotel near the Capitol Building.
What Did We Do?
On Tuesday, after arriving in Springfield between 11 and 11:30 a.m., we did the following:
On the following day, Wednesday, April 19, our lobbying group met at the Capitol Building after breakfast and did the following:
How Did Legislators Respond?
Meeting with Leader Gabel and Senator Fine gave us an opportunity to talk about the bills we’re advocating for and share information about housing insecurity in Evanston. Connections staff who work in in-take, youth services, prevention, and rapid re-housing shared their first-hand experience regarding how housing insecurity has worsened since the COVID-influenced eviction moratorium ended and housing prices have gone up.
During our meetings with Gabel and Fine, they commented on how important it was that we had people with us who could tell real stories about how these bills could impact us significantly if they are passed. These stories give people who have never struggled with housing insecurity or worked with homeless people some perspective on the gravity of homelessness in Illinois. The stories also illustrate how more funding towards housing and laws that would enforce affordable housing plans would help with these pervasive issues by providing needed resources to the homeless.
How Did the Advocates Respond?
Everyone on the trip seems to have found rewarding--and very tiring! The experience was a combination of complex logistics, hurrying to meetings, waiting for legislators, standing around, and talking to legislators about causes that turned out to be very important for every member of the group. It was stressful to stop legislators in the rotunda and give them concise elevator pitches for our causes, but very satisfying to have done so and to have gotten them to listen. We covered miles walking to various offices to talk to legislators or leave notes for them if they weren’t there. But it was fun to see a row of desks with our little houses on them, knowing that our message would stand out because of the work we put in.
And it was gratifying that almost every legislator that we talked to said that what we’re doing is good and they loved seeing how many people were in our group. It was also rewarding to hear the takeaways from first-time advocates as they made a real connection between their own experiences and the things we advocated for.
The budget and, we hope, SB 1476 will be passed at the end of May. We will have a celebration at that point!
Then we will start planning for next year—choosing our policy priorities, working with legislators to find sponsors, building our base of advocates, and planning at least one trip to Springfield!
You can get involved by sending an email to email@example.com.