Posts Tagged ‘community building’

This story comes from Heather Dockray at Good magazine (by way of the Huffington Post). It’s about a life-affirming project in Atlanta.

“Good, local, nutritious food shouldn’t be expensive,” she writes, “and shouldn’t only be enjoyed by people who can afford it.  A homeless shelter in Atlanta decided that their residents desperately needed access to healthy food — but instead of sourcing out, encouraged residents to grow their own. Now, the shelter is home to a huge rooftop garden planted by the residents themselves, which is expected to yield hundreds of pounds of great quality greens. …

“While eating discounted snacks might give homeless residents short-term financial benefits, the long-term health consequences are substantial. The Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, who runs the gardening program, wanted to give homeless people access to food previously considered out-of-reach. Now, residents are responsible for 80 garden beds, producing kale, carrots, chard, and squash, among other vegetables.” More here.

Dockray doesn’t mention how gardening and donating to the shelter makes residents feel, but I am going to guess it builds their self image and confidence.

Photo: Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless

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Zachary Sampson has a nice article at the Globe today. It’s about a project in Boston enlisting passersby to help create a mural.

The mural “was created by artist Ernest McKinley English. He joined with ArtLifting — a Boston organization that works with homeless and disabled artists — to organize the project, which he said was meant to foster collaboration. …

“Liz Powers, cofounder of ArtLifting, said English’s vision dovetails with her organization’s purpose. ‘Both Ernest and ArtLifting have the mission of bringing people together through art, building community through art,’ she said.”

The mural “held a hidden message that would be revealed upon completion. …

“The part-in-a-whole ethic resonated with many of the artists who worked on the piece, both amateur and professional.

“ ‘I think the greatest message,’ [artist Randy] Nicholson said, ‘is as a community, we can accomplish what we can’t as individuals.’ ” More here.

Years ago, Suzanne and John helped paint a beautiful mural about our town for the commuter rail station. Their names were included in the credits and we always felt proud reading them when we passed by.

Photo: Michele McDonald for the Boston Globe
Sisters work on paint-by-numbers mural outside the Prudential Center.

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Photo: Shareable
The tiny village in Austin will include tiny houses, mobile homes, teepees, and refurbished RVs,

Housing the homeless is not something that we as a country have done very successfully yet. Some solutions work for some families, but many solutions don’t.

Some communities have tried supportive housing, which provides extra services that some homeless families need. Others build wonderful programs to get people on the road to independence. But I have also read about weird little pods just big enough for one person to sleep in. (That was in a design article. You never hear afterward how these designs work out for actual humans.)

Austin, Texas, has recognized that failing to house the chronically homeless costs the city too much. So it is inaugurating a village of tiny houses that will have a lot of community-building elements and could be just the ticket. My friend Mary Ann put this on Facebook.

Kelly McCartney writes at Shareable, “In Austin, Texas, a project to offer affordable housing to some 200 chronically homeless citizens is on the move. Community First! Village, which has been in the planning stages for nearly 10 years, is set to soon break ground on a 27-acre property sprinkled with tiny houses, mobile homes, teepees, refurbished RVs, a three-acre community garden, a chapel, a medical facility, a workshop, a bed and breakfast, and an Alamo Drafthouse outdoor movie theater.

“Supporter Alan Graham, of Mobile Loaves and Fishes, notes that the price of not housing these folks costs taxpayers about $10 million a year, not to mention the emotional and psychological tolls on the homeless themselves. …

“Graham has been working with the homeless in his community for more than 14 years and cites broken families as the leading cause of homelessness. With Mobile Loaves and Fishes, Graham has not only helped feed the homeless all these years, but he has helped transition them into homes and jobs, as well.” More.

3/2/14 Update: At the Associated Press, Carrie Antlfinger describes how the movement has spread, here.

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In the spirit of the Season, I thought I would share this community-building story from Boston. It shows what can happen when you give the gift of time. It started it out as a one-shot practical thing, shoveling out a neighbor who can’t do shoveling.

And then it grew.

Billy Baker writes at the Globe, “Michael Iceland showed up in front of a stranger’s house in West Roxbury, put his shovel into the snow, and made someone’s day.

“Inside the house was an older woman, and she was stuck, unable to get out of her door, worried she could not get to her mailbox to pay her bills.

“Iceland, 36, a Jamaica Plain resident, cleared that path for her, made a new friend, and felt great about himself in the process.

“It is a common story in the Snow Crew. The brainchild of Joseph Porcelli, the Snow Crew is an online tool to connect the elderly, the ill, and the disabled to people with willing backs. …

“The Snow Crew, Porcelli quickly realized, was about more than snow.

“ ‘Originally, I thought I was addressing a problem, that people needed to be shoveled out,’ he said. ‘It turns out that was a symptom of a larger problem of people not knowing each other and not being connected to their neighbors.’

“That small gesture, helping a stranger, made them no longer strangers. From it, many have reported developing ‘extremely profound relationships on both sides of the equation,’ said Dale Mitchell, executive director of Ethos, a nonprofit in West Roxbury that became a partner in the Snow Crew.”

I wonder what comparable community-building activity happens in places without snow. In spite of all the problems snow causes, I do love it, not least because a neighbor you hardly know may see you are stuck and come over with the snow blower.

More here.

Photo: Joanne Rathe/ Globe staff

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