The progressive State Representative Jason Lewis just recently won the special election for Katherine Clark’s state senate seat. Homes for Families staff, Jamie Minton, and intern, Becca Gilbert, were fortunate to meet with Senator Lewis to discuss a wide range of topics from his needs as a new senator, his thoughts and vision regarding family homelessness, and his personal experience throughout his journey from the private sector to the public sector. His senate district will include Malden, Melrose, Reading, Stoneham, Wakefield and parts of Winchester. Now, representing more constituents and districts, it is vital for all of us to reach out to Senator Lewis to educate him on the homelessness crisis impacting the communities he represents. Senator Lewis voiced his interest and commitment to learning how to address these new challenges in his new role.
Senator Lewis made an important comment during our conversation saying that “people should consider housing as a fundamental human right, along with education, food and health care.” The country has accepted education for our children and food as fundamental rights, however there is still a way to go before our state accepts housing and health care as equally essential. Senator Lewis also emphasized the importance of the minimum wage: “Many people who find themselves homeless are employed, productive citizens who are contributing to our society and just because they don’t get paid a living wage, cannot afford housing. He proposed solutions to this issue including providing more affordable housing or raising the minimum wage. With a minimum wage bill currently in debate, Becca asked the Senator what we should expect the outcome to be. He was very optimistic, reporting that he expects the house and the senate to reach a compromise.
Our last question was what he suggests constituents and advocates can do to ensure a better relationship with the legislature. The Senator referenced the success of Raise Up, the organization that fought and succeeded on getting the minimum wage on the ballot in 2014. He said “the key thing is that most legislators don’t assume they’re experts on everything”, so providing information to them in your area of expertise is helpful and necessary. Advocates and the greater community are the ones who can provide the basic information, what it is important and what the legislators can and need to do about it. Senator Lewis said that by regularly interacting with the legislature and continuing to reach out will ensure that legislators will listen and take action. It was nice to hear that Senator Lewis relies on his constituents and advocacy groups a great deal to inform and educate him on pressing issues.
We were very lucky to meet with Jason Lewis as he transitions from representative to senator and look forward to his actions on family homelessness and its surrounding issues. We encourage you to connect with your own representative and/or senator and have the same conversation- how they got to the state house, why they continue to do the work that they do, and how we as a community can help to make it stronger.