The National Alliance Conference and Capitol Hill Day 2023

A Black man in a grey shirt speaks to someone off camera, in an office.

Robert Warren speaks to members of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton's staff during the conference. Photo by Annemarie Cuccia

This year’s National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference was held in Washington, D.C. The gathering is another great example of how far we’ve come over the last 15 years. With the help of some amazing women and men — many of them formally homeless and unstably housed — we’re bringing about housing justice and equity in the Continuum of Care.

Like in past conferences, the main focus was on how we improve services for those experiencing homelessness and to help people with resources to better provide those services and learn what’s working and what’s not working. How do we create a better relationship with our federal partners and hold them accountable in rebuilding and adequately funding our public housing social infrastructure, whether it be through a fully funded federal voucher system or some other system based on a community’s needs? We also discussed supporting cities in rebuilding outdated, sometimes hazardous public housing infrastructure and asked whether we have enough social housing for families and what our older adults on fixed incomes need help with to move out of impoverished situations.

This year marks the second in-person National Alliance Conference since the pandemic began and this year was our first visit to Capitol Hill to speak with our representatives. This year’s conference was also brilliantly planned by Ann Oliva, the CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, and her staff, and focused on empowering people with lived experiences and giving a bigger platform to housing justice advocates.

Amanda Andere, chief executive officer of Funders Together to End Homelessness, was so powerful in her comments. She spoke of the need for those who have been in power and leading the way to now get out of the way to let those with lived expertise to share their own personal recovery triumphs and solutions. I attended a workshop on community care for racial equity.

This year’s conference was really empowering for many folks with lived experiences who are fighting for housing justice. D.C. resident and People for Fairness Coalition first director and member Albert Townsend facilitated a discussion on how those with lived expertise can be more engaging, and have more input in bringing about solutions that will address long-term housing injustices, specifically for Black men and people of color. 

Other housing justice advocates spoke about the need for rest and self-care for those on the front lines fighting for true equity and accountability. They said that we may avoid re-traumatizing ourselves through shared trauma. There were also former homeless individuals who spoke on the need for supporting the recovery of those who suffer from the disease of addiction.

There were other powerful presentations given by Del Seymour, founder of Code Tenderloin from California about addiction and how we can come back from it and contribute to our own health and wellness. He spoke about community progress where we are once again employable in certain industries that historically have not been accessible to us like telecommunications and other high-tech jobs. This year’s conference left nothing out and ended with a really great Capitol Hill experience for most of us.

Robert Warren is an artist and vendor with Street Sense Media.

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We believe ending homelessness begins with listening to the stories of those who have experienced it.