Shalimar Cabrera graduated from our 2023 National Alliance to End Homelessness Advisory Council cohort, through TheCaseMade’s partnership with the alliance, which represents the nation’s homelessness service providers. She leads U.S. Vets Las Vegas, which is working to end veteran homelessness in Clark County, NV, and make stable, thriving lives possible for those who’ve served and their families.
We talked to Shalimar about preparing folks who are inexperienced in public will building to make the case for justice and the CaseMaking prompt that’s helped her motivate and inspire audiences large and small.
Conducted last fall, this interview has been edited and condensed.
What’s exciting to you about the CaseMaking training you went through?
The 10 principles stick with you, and then you start framing things using what you’ve learned.
In the training, so many things popped up for me. You look at things from a macro level, and then you drill down. I liked the approach of going through each strategic step one at a time to think about who the audience is, how the training team had us outline who we could make case to, then going through each step with some time in between to marinate.
What was your biggest takeaway?
In general, how we go about making our case and winning people over in the homelessness services field is not very strategic, and it needs to be.
I’ve been with my organization for over 20 years, and I’m typically the one making the case. I have the kind of personality where I like to be doing that. I like to be on stage!
But other staff don’t like to be the face of the organization. Not everyone is comfortable being in the spotlight. As I think about successors, I believe acquiring Strategic CaseMaking™ skills is valuable for even those who don’t have experience persuading or who are emerging into that space.
CaseMaking is a good framework for them to follow when pitching how we can end veteran homelessness and galvanizing people, whether it’s in front of a politician, public officials, a church group, whoever the stakeholders may be.
What’s your favorite CaseMaking tool or tip?
I love the prompt that TheCaseMade facilitator Jen Rich shared during week one, where you fill out, “What we all want is _______, for ourselves and for others. There is no better time than now to _______.”
Right away, I asked her if I could use it!
Now, I’ve used it in a couple of different settings to motivate people and get them fired up. It makes you feel good to hear how people respond, and I’ve never heard a response someone wrote and someone else said, “No, I don’t want that.”
These statements give you enough to start working together to create a plan for what’s next. That’s how CaseMaking happens.
Tell us more about how you’ve used the prompt.
The first time wasn’t even specifically about ending veteran homelessness. I was launching a national mentorship program for U.S. Vets staff. Mentors when through two days of training, and I wanted to get them excited and sell them on why mentorship is so important.
What we came up with together was this: “What we all want for ourselves is an organization where employees thrive and feel connection. There is and no better time than now to invest in staff.”
I used the prompt again when I emceed the Nevada statewide conference on ending homelessness. Over 200 attendees from different agencies each filled in their blanks. Then each table voted on a single statement they wanted to present as a group.
The groups focused on topics ranging from health equity to diversity. Together, we said, “We all want a community that’s inclusive, where everyone is welcome.”
That’s so inspiring! Would you share your best CaseMaking moment with us?
In addition to using Jen’s prompt to guide work, I’ve also used it in a speech when I wanted to move a room of 400 guests to give and to donate. Here’s what I said:
"We all want a community where veterans are thriving, a community that recognizes their service and their sacrifice every single day, and recognizes that having our nation’s heroes sleeping on the very streets they fought to defend is a national tragedy. We have to be in this fight until it ends. And there is no better time than right now to join us in the movement to end veteran homelessness. "
What are you working on next?
We’re doing media training for Veterans Day and Veterans Month, training staff and veterans, alumni and staff, to be ready to be on the mic so it’s not always me or the usual suspects. We’re showing them how you frame where you’re going.
People want to be pointed to what they’re aspiring for. They want to feel hopeful. Sometimes you want to tell them all your gaps first: “We need a new site for our programs because this one is falling apart.”
That’s not a very helpful way of framing what we’re building support for. Instead, we’re saying, “We aspire to have one campus where veterans can get all they need.”
That’s more hopeful.