“I’m just not into politics.”
Even this year, when news about the election is unrelenting, I still hear this occasionally. I even saw a post on social media recently in which an acquaintance admitted she has never registered to vote. She simply has no interest and does not feel like it affects her life in one way or another. Besides, she feels put off by what she views as politicians’ behavior. Why get involved?
The answer to that question is simple: politics and policy touch nearly every aspect of our daily lives, whether we realize it or not. This is especially true for the most vulnerable members of our community.
Take as an example, a single mother in our Family Housing program who is working to exit homelessness. She needs employment, so she applies for a job-training program via the Texas Workforce Commission, a public-funded agency. However, to access those classes and earn certification, she needs access to childcare. The state and her local school board determine whether her local public school offers full day pre-k for her four-year-old. There are childcare subsidy programs available through the state, but the wait list is long, especially since a mandate by the Governor ordered the program closed to new applicants for a time due to COVID-19. Thankfully, CTL recently received a federal grant to add Head Start services to our list of programs and she is able to secure a spot for her daughter in one of our early childhood education programs. She can rest easy knowing that her daughter will be well cared for while she pursues her own education and employment.
However, policy continues to affect her as she works to provide stability for her family. She hopes to save up for a car once she starts her job, but in the meantime, she relies on public transportation to get to work. Has her city invested enough in that resource to make it feasible to get to work on time every day? To pick her daughter up every afternoon?
Her housing options are also affected by policy .Most new employment opportunities created are between $10 and $12 per hour, but average rent takes 75% of those earnings .Has her city council made it a priority to provide adequate affordable family housing, or is there more of a focus on luxury apartments? Is she priced out of the area where her job is located, despite the fact that she’s working full-time? If so, that brings us back to the transportation challenge.
At CTL, we fully understand how policy affects families in a myriad of ways – creating supports or barriers to success. That’s why part of my role within the agency is to engage stakeholders and legislators at the local and state level to lift up the stories of the families that we walk alongside every day and to advocate for policy that works for families.
There’s an old quote regarding politics that says, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” We are determined to make sure that the families that are a part of the programs at CTL have a seat at the table. If you are interested in supporting our policy efforts, please consider joining our Legislative Action Committee.
Written by: Heather Lowe, MSW, Coordinator, Coalition for Homeless Children
Email Heather Lowe (email@example.com) for more information on how to participate.