|Because there are wide variations
in the risk and prevalence of housing-related health hazards,
much of the hard work of developing effective policy solutions
takes place at the state, municipal, and community levels.
Just as war is too important to be left to generals, policy
is too important to be left to politicians and policy makers.
Citizens can help design the right approaches and insist that
government officials choose solutions that are effective and
just. Authentic solutions are those that meet the needs of
the affected communities.
Two proven strategies for addressing needs and problems are
community organizing and advocacy. These strategies are not
mutually exclusive. Community organizing is distinguished
as the approach to social change that involves and mobilizes
the people that are directly affected by the problems that
groups seek to address.
Community organizing explicitly seeks to build people power and the power
of an organization that is directed by its constituency. Community organizing
increases the capacity of people to affect public policy and hold decision
makers accountable. It seeks to address the underlying causes of problems
by developing leadership among people—often people traditionally
left out of decision-making.
Advocacy—working on behalf of any idea, cause, or policy—can
be done either with or without community organizing. Examples of advocacy
include public interest lawsuits, some types of social work, media advocacy,
and one-on-one persuasion. Advocates work on behalf of people who are
directly affected by a problem, representing their needs to those in power.
Advocacy done within a community-organizing context can be very potent
because large numbers of people affected by a problem are organized and
mobilized in support of solutions, representing themselves.