Lending a voice to affordable housing

When Marcia McKean moved back to Portland after living in Italy, she discovered a different city than the one she left nine years before. Rent and home prices had seen some of the highest increases in the country, wages remained stagnant, and a population boom put pressure on the limited housing supply. A growing number of people were pushed into homelessness or forced to move frequently to find affordable rent. Marcia noted that the homelessness issue turned into a vast and urgent crisis, and she was eager to help. A little over a year ago, she began volunteering as a site host at our Helensview community. During that time she became interested in all the tools Habitat uses to support their mission, and picked up one that is integral to Habitat’s work–advocating to lawmakers in support of affordable housing.

“Taking in the enormity of the [housing] crisis, I saw fairly quickly that I wanted to become involved in the kind of imaginative effort that would actually lead people out of it,” shared Marcia.

Marcia knew that advocacy would be a great way to put her creative energy to work. While volunteering as a site host, she took the time to learn how Habitat worked from the ground up. After welcoming volunteers and keeping the build site tidy, Marcia wasn’t afraid to grab a hammer and jump in on the action. Her growing interest in advocacy led her to Oregon’s capitol this past March, where she joined Habitat advocates from throughout the state as they spoke with lawmakers and advocated for affordable housing legislation. “[Advocacy] has made me realize how multi-dimensional Habitat’s work is and I feel privileged to be a part of it,” she said.

Marcia has worked with Habitat on supporting Measure 102 and Measure 26-199, which will help provide safe, affordable housing for families, seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities throughout the Portland Metro region and beyond. Working on Habitat’s advocacy team has given Marcia an inside view into the complex, interdependent relationships between community organizations, government agencies, and the public. Much like a build site, there are many moving parts that rely on each other in order to work properly. Change isn’t easy, and behind every small step forward are teams of people working tirelessly and passionately. For Marcia, becoming an advocate for affordable housing was an education in the delicate but important dance of enacting change.

Marcia couldn’t leave the Mediterranean behind completely, however, and still calls Italy home three months out of the year. As a retiree, she’s able to delve into her artistic side, enjoying  photography, bookbinding, mixed-media art and going to operas and concerts with friends. Outside of Habitat, Marcia has volunteered at her church’s food pantry and was involved with the Kenton Women’s Village. Marcia says, “[Volunteering] gives me a sense of purpose and feeds my soul.”

Don’t forget to vote for the two affordable housing ballot measures on November 6th! By voting YES on Measure 102 and Measure 26-199, you’re supporting Habitat’s work and affordable housing in the Portland Metro region. For more information on the YES for Affordable Housing campaign, visit https://www.yesforaffordablehousing.com/.