Creating Better Futures

On February 28, 1997, over 50 homeless advocates, service providers, public housing residents, organizers, developers, government officials, academics, and others met for a forum on housing that began the Creating Better Futures Campaign, an initiative of the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The campaign aims to begin developing a vision for affordable housing, living wage jobs, and decent health care in America.

The Creating Better Futures Campaign is focused around the needs – livable incomes, affordable housing, available health care – that prolong and protract poverty in this country. The campaign’s two overall goals are to:

  • create the new vision and define the content and substance of the advocacy message that can be adopted by many national and local organizations and groups
  • develop the strategy to reinvigorate activists’ commitment to relentless advocacy

In keeping with the campaign’s first component, the housing forum intended to define the vision for creating and sustaining high quality housing in healthy communities affordable to Americans at the lowest income level – less than 40 percent of area median income. At the two-day forum, participants looked at current assumptions underlying subsidized housing policy, and the ways we ourselves perpetuate the worst parts of this policy. Columbia University’s Peter Marcuse spoke on the best components of housing policy in European countries, giving participants an opportunity to broaden their vision. Many went away with plans to hold similar forums in their own communities. Such dialogs need to occur everywhere, among broad and diverse populations, so that the political will to create better futures will be deeply seeded.

Prior to the forum, participants had been asked to write a “substantive” reflection paper, based on a series of questions provided, and urged to “think out of the box,” and “take U.S. housing and urban development policy and practices to places it is not yet.” The papers defined participants’ concerns specifically and described concrete actions to resolve those concerns. Organizers of the campaign are gathering and refining the papers and the dialogue begun at the housing forum for two more forums – one on income, and one on health care – planned as part of the first segment of the Creating Better Futures Campaign.

The second component of the campaign – developing an advocacy strategy and inciting commitment – will involve holding a large gathering of grassroots organizers several months after the last forum. This gathering will be open to as many people as possible from across the country.

For more information about the Creating Better Futures Campaign, contact the National Coalition for the Homeless, 1612 K Street, NW, #1004, Washington, DC 20006; 202-775-1322 or the National Low Income Housing Coalition, 1012 Fourteenth St., NW #1200, Washington, DC  20005; 202-662-1530.

Mary Ann Gleason, National Coalition for the Homeless


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