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  • Writer's picturePCHTF

Lauren Johnson: My journey from intern to housing advocate

In times of change, I often look to the wise words of Jimmy Carter for guidance. Next week I will be leaving PCHTF to take on a new role as Director of Marketing, Sales and Executive Support for a triad of companies in the health, beauty and investment industries.

When I moved back to Des Moines from South Carolina in 2018, I was inspired by former president Jimmy Carter’s actions in returning to his family in a time of need and felt it was my duty to do the same. I was fortunate to return not to just my family but to my second family -- the staff at the Polk County Housing Trust Fund.

I began my relationship with PCHTF and the issue of housing affordability in 2015 as a summer intern, managing the Can I Be Your Neighbor campaign. In traveling to almost every city and neighborhood in the Metro, I began to understand the importance of ensuring that every family that chooses to live in Greater Des Moines has access to safe, stable and affordable housing. Upon graduating from the College of Charleston in 2018, I was grateful for a job offer that enabled me to return to my hometown and continue this work.

I am proud to have been part of the work to broaden the understanding of affordable housing issues in Central Iowa…

Housing Justice

In April of 2019, PCHTF began exploring the complicated legacy of redlining and urban renewal by bringing the nationally acclaimed Undesign the Redline exhibit to Des Moines. In 2020, this work came into greater focus as racial justice came to the forefront of our national and local dialogue. By quickly adapting this exhibit to a virtual experience in light of COVID-19, we were able to educate over 5,000 individuals about the lasting effects of this historical discrimination and move one step closer to creating more equitable housing options in the Des Moines Metro.

Regional Housing Policy

Great strides have been made in pushing for a Regional Affordable Housing Plan. After participating in the Capital Crossroads Workforce Housing Study and the following Strategy Report, we were able to present this data to the public during our 2021 Affordable Housing Week.

Throughout the 10th Annual Affordable Housing Week, we found innovative ways to educate and engage metro leaders and residents about the importance of working together to tackle our regional housing issues in a virtual format. From produced videos to Facebook Lives and interactive Zoom meetings we reached over 1,500 area residents.

Housing Advocacy: Our Homes, Our Votes 2020

In 2019, PCHTF amplified its advocacy by partnering with the National Low Income Housing Coalition to highlight affordable housing issues throughout the 2020 Presidential election cycle. In communicating the housing needs of our lowest income residents, we were able to effectively advocate for increased federal funding for essential housing programs.

In all of these efforts and initiatives, PCHTF, its board, staff and funders went out on a limb. Now, it is time for me to do the same and take the next step in my career. In doing so, I will remain a passionate advocate for the equity and affordability of housing in Greater Des Moines and strive to make our neighborhoods more accessible for all.

I’d like to publicly thank the PCHTF for bringing me home and providing years of guidance, leadership, and opportunities that have enriched my life and the lives of so many others.

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