Last week the Fair Budget Coalition released its annual budget recommendations, asking for significant investments and greater accountability in the programs and services that low-income residents need to survive and thrive in the District. The recommendations cover six categories of needed investment and reform: housing security, community safety, food access, healthcare, economic justice and fair taxes & public deals.
As we’ve mentioned before, we co-founded the Fair Budget Coalition and strongly support its mission and work to this day. While our expertise and policy work primarily lie in the areas of affordable housing and homeless services, FBC allows us to learn about and advocate for the full range of our clients’ needs, recognizing the interconnectness of those needs. People experiencing homelessness also need better access to food, in shelters and in the community. They need criminal justice reform. They need easier, lower barrier access to healthcare. They need help with transportation to job training programs. Their kids need quality daycare, fair discipline in schools, and better mental health and domestic violence prevention services.
That is not the only reason, though, that we participate in FBC—we believe that our advocacy will be stronger if we work together with our partners and allies towards the same goals, even if those goals are much broader than what we might have tackled alone. People and organizations fighting for the needs and rights of low-income DC residents are often pitted against each other to the detriment of their missions and goals…and ultimately to the detriment of the people they serve. This is a strategy as old as time. The way to effectively fight it, by joining together, is equally steeped in history—represented in proverb (“Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable” Kenyan proverb) and even Aesop fable:
A certain Father had a family of Sons, who were forever quarreling among themselves. No words he could say did the least good, so he cast about in his mind for some very striking example that should make them see that discord would lead them to misfortune.
One day when the quarreling had been much more violent than usual and each of the Sons was moping in a surly manner, he asked one of them to bring him a bundle of sticks. Then handing the bundle to each of his Sons in turn he told them to try to break it. But although each one tried his best, none was able to do so.
The Father then untied the bundle and gave the sticks to his Sons to break one by one. This they did very easily.
“My Sons,” said the Father, “do you not see how certain it is that if you agree with each other and help each other, it will be impossible for your enemies to injure you? But if you are divided among yourselves, you will be no stronger than a single stick in that bundle.”