While I had worked in housing prior to starting in this position, it had been in direct services or case management type work. Starting at Habitat in the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI) department last August, changed my focus to a more macro analysis allowing me to gain vast insight into improving the overall quality of life in communities that I will take with me to graduate school this fall. This is in great thanks and appreciation to the many partners and community members Habitat works with in our NRI neighborhoods of Jordan and Frogtown.
I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to work with these community partners who are doing amazing work surrounding outreach and engagement, housing, safety and more. This includes organizations such as Frogtown Neighborhood Association, Frogtown Rondo Action Network, Frogtown Rondo Home Fund, Jordan Area Community Council, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council, The North Side Home Fund and other non-profit developers.
While there have been many accomplishments in each neighborhood this year, such as a published housing resource guide for Frogtown residents and welcoming neighbors in Jordan to a Habitat home dedication, there is still so much to do. We work with these partners to gather input from residents, to engage the neighborhood in our housing programs and to engage residents, including our Habitat homeowners, in community meetings and events. Improving the quality of life in these neighborhoods would not be possible without the tremendous work of these organizations and the many neighbors who dedicate themselves to building a beautiful community.
Community development work is hard. For every step forward, it felt like I would take ten steps back, but I know it pays off in the end. Therefore, after a year of work, I would like to share with you what I think are the top three keys to building community:
It takes time. Relationships and trust are built over a long time, not overnight. Decades of racial and economic disparities in our communities cannot be erased in a couple of years. Action planning for justice takes time to consider all possible unintended outcomes. To see significant change to the quality of life, we must be committed in the long run to making equitable solutions in all areas of community development.
It takes dedication. In relation to the first point, we must be dedicated to the cause, even if it takes a while to see the change. It is easy to become disheartened if you expect your intended results to occur as soon as you begin. Small victories over time add up to big changes in the end – be patient, continue to cultivate relationships and show up to share in the work.
It takes all of us. Habitat’s NRI program is just one slice of the pie that is the comprehensive solution to thriving communities. Developers, community councils, health and green initiatives, government, businesses, schools, residents and more all play a role in transforming communities. Collaboration is easier said than done, but it must be done.
For the last few months of my term, I planned and managed the follow-up evaluation of our 16-block Frogtown focus area. With the help of neighborhood partners and community members, we conducted a resident satisfaction survey and a parcel condition survey. All the data collected will help Twin Cities Habitat inform its work and will also be available to the community.
In the coming weeks you’ll have the opportunity to meet Neil Gleason, the new Lutheran Volunteer Corps member taking my place here at Habitat. He will continue to work with the data to create reports and material that can be shared.
This has been an immensely transformative year for me and I want to thank Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, all our partner organizations and community members for giving me the opportunity to be part of this journey in these amazing neighborhoods.
Keep an eye out for future NRI updates and events as well as information about how you can become involved!