This is part of a series on people and projects making change at Bread. You can read the other blog posts in the series here.
One of my inspirations comes from my grandfather and mother. My grandpa needed Social Security because a heart condition left him unable to work. My mother was the youngest child in her family, so she was home the day he came home from the Social Security office in tears when he got denied. She sat down and worked with him to make sure the next time he would get approved, and he did!
Not everyone has a kid who can do that, especially when public benefits can get messed up in so many different ways. I do what I do to take one little burden off my clients, by helping them work things out.
At the end of the day, I also do what I can to help fix the process. It has to be easier, because we can’t help everyone, and people should be able to get what they need for themselves. I don’t want them to have a problem in the first place.
There are challenges.
- It can be hard to know exactly what to fight for, and there are times when my responsibility to be a zealous advocate for my individual client can complicate things. Usually what’s good for one client is good for all, but not always.
- When we do have the rare opportunity for an advocacy victory within a case, as I blogged about before, it’s hard to enforce.
- Advocacy at the Wilson Building suits my temperament, but I know it isn’t accessible or enjoyable for everyone. It takes patience, daytime availability, literacy skills, photo ID, Metro fare, etc. etc. It works for me, because I have the resources and privilege to feel comfortable within the system. But I know my approach isn’t the only approach — it helps to have multiple people with a different touch as part of a shared strategy.
What I dream about for Bread for the City is just that: strategy. I’d love to see an advocacy agenda with clear ties to Bread’s core service areas. The DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence picks a few topics a year to focus their advocacy on (and sometimes they continue a topic from year to year). They have measurable goals and objectives, and have a good balance of action and reflection. They are focused. I respect that.
What do we get for our trouble? Fewer homeless people, fewer poor children, more access to medical care and employment. I will have less crisis-related work to do and can focus more on helping people with disabilities plan for the longer term.
That’s my vision.