Rockford Housing Authority (RHA) demonstrates the transformational potential of human service organizations, as described in the report, A National Imperative: Joining Forces to Strengthen Human Services in America, by making civic engagement a year-round extension of the human services mission.
RHA conducts voter engagement efforts by doing outreach across their housing sites. They hold group information sessions and one-on-one discussions to learn from residents about their relationships with the voting process. These community conversations revealed several reasons why some citizens do not vote, such as feeling they are only targeted during election season and are otherwise ignored.
“If someone feels discouraged by poverty or the difficult situation they are in, this may cause them to not be able to identify with the system. People who are struggling often do not think the system works for them or is built for them,” shared Odessa Walker, director of human services at RHA.
To combat these thoughts and empower the community, human services organizations like RHA should keep civic engagement and voter activation at the forefront of conversations year round. RHA mobilizes community members by demonstrating how elections relate to everyday life. They highlight themes that directly touch lives in the community, such as housing, health care, and education. When voting is a continual conversation, it is more likely to become a habit and helps connect everyday life to civic engagement. To that end, RHA led their own voter registration efforts, while also partnering with The League of Women Voters. In addition, RHA brought candidates to the community by hosting forums, where residents were able to engage with elected officials through thoughtful and intentional questions and conversations.
RHA not only provides public housing to thousands in Illinois, but they cultivate a sense of belonging in the community by promoting civic engagement and community connections all year long.
Rockford Housing Authority (RHA) partners with the community and residents to transform houses into homes while guiding families to self-sufficiency. RHA provides the city with 1,702 housing units and approximately 1,678 Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers.