Speaking up for housing makes sense to many would-be advocates, but, for some, public speaking can be intimidating. That’s why Housing Assistance is hosting a series of workshops aimed at making people more comfortable with taking a public stand. The classes are offered in partnership with Leadership Cape Cod, a nonprofit that educates the region’s current and future leaders.
The first Become a Housing Advocate workshop was held via Zoom in February. “We gave people guidance on how to speak, what to say and why their support matters,” said Ann Schiffenhaus, Housing Assistance’s director of community relations and advocacy. “Sharing a mix of personal stories and data can be effective in swaying a board to approve a pro-housing policy.”
Only three of the 10 people who attended the session had previously spoken at a town hearing or meeting. “We hope they can put these new skills to use to help build support for affordable housing and all types of housing needed in their towns,” Schiffenhaus said.
Carolina Cooney, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, said the class gave her more confidence to speak up at future town meetings.
“I liked getting a framework that makes it easy to phrase what you want to say,” she said. “Learning how to frame your point of view and stay succinct and on target was very helpful.” She said she would like to offer the class to her members as a way of encouraging more advocacy.
Roberta Berrien, M.D., a member of the Dennis Housing Advocacy Working Group, said the session was particularly useful for those who have not spoken up before. Her main takeaway from the session is that the tables need to be turned.
“More people who oppose affordable housing show up at town meeting, and that needs to change,” she said. “It is important to show up.”
The Become a Housing Advocate workshop will be repeated March 23 at the Housing Assistance office in Hyannis, April 20 at the Housing Assistance office in Orleans and May 4 via Zoom. All sessions start at 6 p.m. See events.