Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (LMM) is a 54-year-old social service agency dedicated to addressing the chronic needs of and empowering individuals in Northeast Ohio facing adversity to become self-sufficient through Housing + Shelter, Workforce Development, Youth Resiliency, and Guardianship programs. LMM is unique for an agency providing social services in that we have a dedicated focus on advocacy and policy. So, while we’re doing the work on the ground, we’re also informing systems change at the local, state and federal levels by leveraging the expertise of staff and the experiences of program participants to advocate on behalf of the individuals we serve.
A culture of civic engagement
Participating in advocacy and informing systems change are key parts of participating in democracy. During election seasons, LMM prioritizes keeping our stakeholders civically engaged through public efforts such as Mayoral and County Executive forums, voter registration drives for program participants + staff, endorsing local issues, having conversations with elected officials, running #LMMVotes campaigns and more. While it’s vital for our agency and our stakeholders to stay civically engaged during election seasons, LMM also recognizes the importance of practicing democracy beyond elections. From convening conversations, engaging in advocacy actions and creating opportunities to educate staff, LMM prioritizes making democracy a year-round practice.
Recent local civic engagement efforts
Hosting public conversations, forums and workshops throughout the year are vital ways of engaging in democracy. During Reentry Week in April 2023, LMM hosted a two-part People’s Reentry Assembly featuring restored citizens, policy experts and community leaders. The first part of the Assembly was a workshop focused on the power of storytelling for individuals with past criminal legal-system involvement, while the second part of the Assembly convened 70+ individuals from City and County government, foundations, nonprofits and individuals with lived experience to discuss pathways to reentry.
That same week, LMM hosted the Charles R. See Forum on Reentry at The City Club of Cleveland featuring Andre Ward, Associate Vice President of the David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy at the Fortune Society, to discuss fair chance hiring and lessening barriers to employment for returning citizens. In advance of the forum at The City Club, Mr. Ward had the opportunity to have lunch with men from the Grafton Reintegration Center in LMM’s Chopping for Change program to discuss their experiences. Convening folks with lived experience, elected officials and community leaders to tell their stories, discuss challenges and explore solutions is not only a practice of equitable democracy, but an important step towards creating change.
Keeping the LMM staff engaged
Empowering our staff and program participants with opportunities to learn and engage in advocacy is another way LMM practices democracy outside of election cycles. LMM’s 15-person Staff Advocacy Committee convenes four times throughout the course of each year to guide and carry out LMM’s yearly Advocacy Priorities, stay in-the-know on policy issues relevant to LMM, share advocacy-related opportunities and more.
In addition to the Staff Advocacy Committee, in recent years, LMM has utilized Cleveland VOTES’ Equitable Civic
Engagement Fund for democracy-building activities like hosting a watch party and discussion of the Cleveland Mayoral Forum on Housing + Homelessness for residents at the Men’s Shelter at 2100 Lakeside, holding a two-part mapmaking activity with Fair Districts Ohio to enable LMM staff to engage in the redistricting process, hosting get-out-the-vote efforts for staff, and more.
Outside of these efforts, LMM’s Office of Advocacy regularly hosts facilitated discussions for staff and program participants, which has recently included an advocacy workshop for Chopping for Change students, a staff discussion on the history of Juneteenth, a community book club, and a Protest History: Riots, Marches & Movements lunch + learn.
Additional efforts in local and statewide advocacy
Another way LMM engages with democracy is through endorsing and taking action on various advocacy efforts at the local, state and federal levels. In 2021, LMM, alongside community partners, led efforts to push then Mayor-elect Justin Bibb to protect Cleveland renter’s rights through the #RenterRightsDay1 campaign. Recently, LMM has submitted its own comments and endorsed the Partnership for Just Housing’s letter to the FTC and CFPB to stop tenant screenings. LMM has taken additional advocacy stances against past federal housing efforts, including policy that made it more difficult for trans individuals to access emergency shelter, protections around veteran homelessness benefits, and urging Congress to stop cuts to affordable housing.
From convening community conversations, engaging in advocacy actions and creating opportunities to educate staff and program participants, LMM will always recognize the importance of ensuring democracy is a year-round practice.
Interested in getting involved with LMM’s advocacy, policy and civic engagement work?
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