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Learning how to advocate: Habitat on Hill is great experience for all

Posted: 0000-00-00 00:00:00

Nearly 200 affordable housing advocates form across the state joined together Tuesday for this year’s Habitat on the Hill – Minnesota.
During the morning training session at the Minnesota History Center, attendees heard from Twin Cities Habitat President Sue Haigh and Nathan Thompson, executive director of North St. Louis County Habitat for Humanity. Khou Vang, the daughter of a local homebuyer family, shared what having a Habitat home has meant to her.

“The simple joy of handing out treats to the neighborhood children is something we celebrate every October. We celebrate being homeowners,” said Khou.

Twin Cities Habitat staff prepared participants for their day at the Capitol, explaining how to talk to their legislators and reviewing talking points related to bonding for housing.

Attendees included construction volunteers and regular advocates alike. Over a tasty lunch at the History Center’s Café Minnesota, attendees got a chance to meet others from their legislative districts and learn from more practiced advocates.

“There are always people who are there for the first time and we’re helping them learn how to advocate,” explained Jill Kilibarda, TCHFH’s education and civic engagement program manager. “Seeing people realize the Capitol is a place we can all go and that our legislators are accessible and it’s easier than we think, it’s just such an empowering thing to teach citizens.”

Participant Tyler Berndt agreed. “The whole experience brings into perspective how easy it is, with a little time and effort, to get a better understanding of what our legislators are doing,” he said.

After speaking with their Senators and Representatives at the Capitol, attendees posed for pictures with local housing celebrity Bill Ding before gathering in the Capitol Rotunda for the Homes for All Housing Rally at 2 p.m.

Speakers included Sen. Jeremy Miller, Sen. Jeff Hayden, Rep. Alice Hausman, Rep. Larry Howes, Rep. Swedzinski, Sue Haigh, and Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Churches.

“We cannot afford to be discouraged,” Chemberlin told the crowd, which grew larger as advocates representing other organizations joined the rally.

A housing prayer vigil organized by the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition followed the rally.