Reflections on Advocacy

Politics is the art of the possible. Advocacy is the art of changing the possible.

After a decade of advocacy for the right of tenants to be free of bullying and harassment, we ask: Why has it taken so long? When will we get relief? Is it worth continuing our efforts?

It’s taken so long because the task is so challenging. We will get relief if all of us continue showing up and keep telling Beacon Hill our demand: We want our rights! When do we want them? Now!

It’s taken so long because our legitimate desire to be treated with respect and dignity is actually a fundamental challenge to the culture of our country. People who are poor, elderly, or disabled need help to maintain their dignity and that help costs money and requires that we be seen with respect and compassion. That is a big ask in a time when our society is divided into hostile camps by politics and identity, so it is no surprise that housing communities are riven by strife, or that it feels like no one cares.

Public and subsidized housing has not been adequately funded for decades. The management of housing is not subject to effective oversight by the landlords (housing authorities or corporations) or by the federal or state agencies that fund housing. Some managers do a good job: they have good relations with tenants and strive to meet their needs and to prevent bullying and harassment. Others, not so much.

The goal of our advocacy is systemic change. We believe that landlords and all their agents, including managers, need better training, access to best practices, and additional resources including people with credentials in relationships, mental health, and social services. Accountability is essential to assuring that landlords will prevent harassment. Our legislative partners are working to pass legislation to implement these essential changes. Our continuing advocacy is essential to their success in passing legislation that will help us.

To work towards those changes has required over a decade of persistent advocacy and many others have done this work in decades past.

  • We show up.

  • We partnered with legislators to write and promote legislation.

  • We got legislation to create the Commission on Bullying, and as tenants we participated in the work of the commission, including surveys and other research.

  • We have built coalitions and partnerships with organizations and groups around our shared agendas.

  • We have testified at Beacon Hill.

  • We have persisted by participating in the work of CHAPA, which brings together leaders from every part of the housing world and by supporting Dignity Alliance that is comprised a broad range of experienced social service professionals in support of the rights of people in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and of people living or seeking to live in the community with support to enable them to live independently.

  • Legislators and administrators know who we are and what we stand for.

  • We come to meetings informed by our personal experience and the stories of our peers. We come with good information, the results of research. We come with the tearful pleas of our harassed neighbors echoing in our minds.

  • We strive to share our experiences and goals and meld them with the mission of our partners and collaborate with them to help solve our shared challenges.

We can meet with and be heard by our legislative partners and the people who administer our laws and institutions to collaborate on solutions that will involve legislation, changes in policy, and changes in administration right down to the daily interactions of managers and tenants.

It’s now up to every one of us to tell Beacon Hill, We want our rights now! 

We’re seeking to expand our active network of advisors and leaders all across the Commonwealth. We thrive on a diversity of viewpoints and need a variety of skills to benefit every tenant. Are you interested? After you have signed up for the newsletter, use the contact information available there.