4 Responses to “Chapel Hill listens to public housing residents, delivers through partnerships”

  1. John Stephens

    For Catherine and Loryn Clark – would like to hear more – particularly from participants in the programs you report on about this goal: “…all members of the community to take part in the new forms of civic engagement.”

    I ask because, per many communities’ experience, it is usually harder for low income and those born outside the U.S. to be involved, and get to leadership roles, in civic organizations
    What are the results, or maybe a story or two, about not just their computer and internet skills – which are important – but the part of the goal: to take part in the new forms of civic engagement?

    I like your point about moderate success and ripple effects. I guess I’m hoping for a clearer ripple effect in terms of engagement.

    For example, are the >>new forms<< only online [e.g. discussion forums]? Or are you thinking about citizen academies and policy-oriented involvement, beyond what you site as volunteer service – such as neighborhood cleanups.

    Finally, have you taken lessons from other communities’ and their work to better support and involve the residents of public housing? Thanks, John

    • Catherine Lazorko

      • We have launched a Resident Leadership Team, a representative group of residents who provide guidance on resident programming and services and opportunities for improving the Town’s public housing neighborhoods. The resident leaders serve as liaisons to their neighbors to share information and encourage community engagement. This is a newly formed group, and we are working toward having one representative per neighborhood.

      • Self-organizing efforts. There are many examples of residents within our public housing neighborhoods self-organizing to address issues that they have identified. For example, a parent support group formed, which meets on a weekly basis to discuss parenting challenges, share ideas and suggestions, and provide support to one another. Several residents serve as the point person for food distribution within their neighborhoods. Meaningful involvement takes time. Central to our effort is building trust. When we follow up on the concerns that residents say are most important to them, we demonstrate that we are listening and responding to their top concerns.

      • Learning from others. Many thanks to Beth McKee-Huger for sharing experiences in the Cottage Grove neighborhood in Greensboro, NC. We continue to look for opportunities to connect and learn from others like Beth and our entire CELE community.

  2. Beth McKee-Huger

    As community residents build confidence and communication skills—through English and internet—they can speak up for what they want or don’t want in their neighborhoods. As the public institutions and nonprofit organizations that impact their lives, we need to be ready to listen and to change our practices when they result in barriers. Sometimes we get frustrated that few people participate in our efforts to “help” because we haven’t paid enough attention to what people want. It sounds like Chapel Hill has succeeding in finding some of the ways community residents want to get involved. In the Cottage Grove neighborhood in Greensboro, we are finding that door to door outreach by residents is connecting neighbor and building trust so that they can speak up for how they want to make changes in the community.

    • Catherine Lazorko

      Beth, Thank you — and, your post about the new vision for the Cottage Grove neighborhood is definitely worth revisiting — http://cele.sog.unc.edu/cottage-grove-for-life-greensboro-neighborhood-redevelopment/

      When residents were asked about their priorities for this Greensboro neighborhood, they said “a health clinic, jobs, better housing, vegetable gardens, bus shelters, safe parks, and English for Speakers of Other Languages.” And, today they are working to reach this vision — because these are the purposeful changes they want. The first step to engagement is listening, and it sounds like the approach driven by resident leaders offered open questions that generated valuable input from their neighbors. When the vision was shared from the entire community, residents found it meaningful, and now they are motivated to achieve it.


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