Nimby Assessment

Neighbors Lobbying to Deny Capital and Operating Funds

Responses

Think about the scenario from the perspective of ABC, Inc. as you consider their options for responding below.

Since the neighbors are using a political strategy to block the project, you will need to employ a political approach in response.

  • Do you know your state and local legislators?
  • Do they know about your agency's programs?
  • Are your tenants registered to vote?
  • Do you communicate with your legislators regularly about priority issues for your target population?
  • Do any members of your Board of Directors have affiliations with local or state legislators?
  • Have you worked to galvanize other stakeholders (e.g., family members of consumers and tenants) to take action on this issue?

Consider the following responses to opponents' political actions:

Educate the community about the proposed project. Develop a clear written description of the proposed program that describes the type of residents that will be living there, the nature of their disabilities, the types of services that will be offered, why these services are critical to their recovery and re integration into the community, and any quality assurance and government oversight role in the project. See sample program description in the resources section.

Implement a political advocacy strategy. This may include some or all of the following activities:

  • Organize a letter-writing campaign in favor of the project. It is important that this campaign be addressed to the elected officials who will be decision-makers regarding funding, (e.g., committee chairs and members). Include testimonials in the letters regarding the need for the project and the high quality of the agency's programs. Letters from constituents are most valuable.
  • Develop a fact sheet with key data about the agency and the proposed project. Emphasize the benefits to taxpayers, in addition to the positive outcomes to be achieved for the individuals to be served. Include references to current research about supportive housing, risks to public safety, and property values.
  • Schedule appointments to meet with elected officials that include members of the Board of Directors, family members, and line staff, in addition to agency leadership. Bring fact sheets, but be prepared to address all of the items with a quick presentation.
  • Invite elected officials to visit other agency programs. This could be a formal event (an open house or ribbon-cutting) or an informal meeting with a variety of agency stakeholders. Take pictures for use in public relations materials.

Politicians are very sensitive to constituent communications and media coverage. Do you have an agency communication strategy for public education and media relations?

Consider the following responses in the form of a media campaign:

Implement an aggressive media campaign. To counter the negative images depicted in the media about the residents of adult homes and other stigmatizing portrayals of people with mental illnesses, implement an aggressive media campaign. This may include:

  • Submitting letters to the editor from board members, tenants, or family members.
  • Cultivating specific reporters who may take the time to do a more thorough story on the project, including profiling success stories involving supportive housing tenants.
  • Developing a press packet with concise and compelling background information.
  • Sending press releases regularly to local media outlets with news about your agency's programs, and progress with this and other projects.
  • Appearing on local talk radio stations.
  • Providing agency staff to respond with expert commentary on pertinent local news issues. This will increase the agency's credibility with the media, but will require a commitment of staff time and the ability to respond rapidly to requests for commentary.
  • Opponents employed illegal methods in their attempt to prevent your development. Have you considered what legal or other formal channels of recourse your organization might have?

Consider the following responses to opponents' illegal activities

  • The owner could file a police report and work with the local detectives to find and prosecute the arsonist.
  • ABC could file a complaint with HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, citing unlawful intimidation, which may elevate the investigation beyond the local level.
  • The agency and owner may also explore whether this is classified as a "hate crime" under state law.
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