Yesterday marked the final meeting of the Coalition of Housing and Homeless Organizations. After Hyacinth’s Place became a member this year, COHHO quickly became a valuable resource and enriching experience for us. We’re going to miss being a part of it.
The Coalition of Housing and Homeless Organizations (COHHO) is a partnership that for 25 years has brought together advocacy groups and individuals with the common goal of ending homelessness in our city. Its members share the conviction that by convening diverse voices and working together, we can make housing a reality for everyone. COHHO was a venue for brainstorming, strategizing, information-sharing, and getting to know others with a deep commitment to equality, dignity, and justice.
As an example of the work COHHO does, one of the issues we took on this year was low-barrier shelters. Members shared their expertise so that we could pinpoint weaknesses, identify best practices, and compile unanswered questions. We invited key stakeholders to meetings and forged new partnerships. The recommendations developed from these sessions will serve as a roadmap for advocates moving forward.
Of course, low-barrier shelter is just one issue COHHO worked on, because homelessness is a complex problem for which there is no single solution. COHHO advocated for everything from anti-discrimination policies to permanent supportive housing to important programs in the city’s budget. Our meetings were defined by robust discussions, and often included guest presenters, like D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham, representatives from government agencies, and national advocacy groups.
But COHHO’s end is actually a beginning, because the victories it claims and the policies it shaped are what set the stage for the next chapter in housing-rights advocacy in the District. Notable initiatives taking the baton are the Way Home Campaign and the Housing for All Campaign. D.C. Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH) meetings also will be a space for the conversations we had at COHHO to continue. COHHO played a big part in the ICH’s evolution by advocating for public hearings, shaping its meeting topics, and holding public forums.
I’ve learned so much from the smart, passionate, and thoughtful people who were members of COHHO. It’s not goodbye though, because they are my colleagues in other settings, and we’re all driven by the conviction that housing is a human right. In fact, I’ll see a lot of them in just a few days, at next week’s ICH meeting.
Government Relations and Community Outreach