ADVOCACY IS A MARATHON!
REFLECTIONS ON A CHANCE MEETING AT THE CAPITAL AND A 7-HOUR CAR RIDE IN 2020.
– Scott Engmann
January 19, 2022
Each year I work with a coalition of housing experts to dissect and evaluate policies that affect if, where, and how housing will take place in South Dakota and together we formulate our action steps for the annual Day at the Capitol event. Whenever we go to the Capitol, we bring our best information, recommendations, and of course, we include food! Everyone likes to eat and food is a great gathering force! Over the coffee and treats we offered, we met with Representatives, Senators, Lobbyists, and policy creators.
As the morning wore on, the flow of conversations with representatives and regulators began to slow and those of us who hosted the event began conversing amongst ourselves. My thought was that breakfast was over and we were ready to pack up. Then, an old friend from the Senate appeared with a big smile, and I helped make introductions all around. His commanding presence and pointed questions regarding the Governor’s recent bills proposing to allocate $200M towards workforce housing caught us all by surprise!
I have always known Jeff Partridge was a friend to housing. When we parted ways I thought back to the 7-hour car journey we shared in 2020 while he was in the senate. When we brainstormed on how the Senate could do a lot more for housing. Then I recalled the meeting we set with Mark Lausing, the Director of South Dakota Housing at the time, to discuss how SDHDA programs are administered, ways to improve efficiency, and the need for grants. Suddenly it dawned on me, the leading bills put forth from Governor Noem for the 2022 legislative session, SB53 and HB1033 have his handprint all over them- they are a part of the response to the loud call for affordable housing solutions in South Dakota.
I found myself with the unique sense that this journey is far from over. Advocacy is a marathon and we never know who is on the sidelines ready to offer a fresh, cool cup of water. What if the answer is not what you thought it was, and the people who need your influence are not who you think they are?
This experience reminded me, as I am reminding you, that we need to gather our opinions but to stay ready to learn, and ultimately be surprised at who – and how – things get done when we show up. The time we spend wholeheartedly today with one person may become a key relational investment that unlocks the door to opportunity in the future. As we put one foot in front of the other in the direction of improving homes, communities, and hope, we will not forget those we meet along the way.
Through our five-year Cost of Home campaign, we commit to mobilizing our local Habitat organizations, our partners, our volunteers and community members across the country to find the solutions and help create the policies that will allow 10 million individuals to meet their most basic needs. At Habitat for Humanity, we know that a family should never have to spend more than 30% of their income on a home. Join us, and help make the cost of home something we can all afford.
We must create what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the beloved community” — a community that includes diversity and allows for tension undergirded by love and leading to transformation. To do so, we must truly love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We must change. And we must commit to tangible action. We pledge to help build a world that leaves no room for poverty, prejudice or violence, and to work together with our neighbors, side by side, to create strength, stability and self-reliance for all.