Midpoint Progress Report: How we're revitalizing local neighborhoods
Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity (TCHFH) began its official Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative work when we were selected to be a part of the national pilot for NRI in January 2011. Eighteen months into our focus on St. Paul’s Frogtown and Aurora-St. Anthony neighborhoods, what can we show for progress?
First and foremost, we have much stronger relationships with neighborhood organizations, local community development corporations and community service organizations. Unlike traditional Habitat partners who tend to be other housing providers, these groups have various neighborhood improvement goals. Some are focused on economic development, others on arts and culture and still others on education and children. The unifying element is a focus on improving neighborhood quality of life.
The second milestone for NRI is the depth of our knowledge of the neighborhood. In the last year, we have visited 30 Habitat homeowners who own homes in the neighborhood. We’ve gotten caught up on their lives since they closed on their Habitat home and listened to their perceptions of their neighborhood. We’ve done the same with other community residents in seven listening sessions, five focus groups, and 15 one-on-one interviews with community leaders. Here again, we have heard their stories and recorded their concerns and aspirations. To provide context for resident stories, we have collected and analyzed data about the physical condition of 32 blocks.
The improved knowledge and relationships are paying off for Habitat’s mission delivery in the neighborhood. We have one new home under construction. We have completed three rehabs and one critical home repair project in the neighborhood. We received funding to complete an additional rehab and critical home repair project, and have applied for funding for another 3-4 new homes or rehabs. We have developed a “street team” to conduct door-to-door program outreach. As a result, we received 10 new A Brush with Kindness/Critical Home Repair applications—three on one block!
So, what’s next in the neighborhood? For the second year, TCHFH is co-organizing the University United Parade, a place-making effort designed to bring together neighborhoods and cultural communities along both sides of the Central Corridor. We are working with our community partners to synthesize the information from surveys, parcel evaluations, listening sessions and focus groups into a plan of action that residents endorse. And we’ll keep bringing the strength of Habitat’s homebuilding and home improvement work to improve the physical environment of the neighborhood while our volunteerism and homeownership work helps create new neighborhood social capital.
Working to help make a neighborhood become a more vital and healthy place isn’t a short term project. People who do this work well say to plan on at least a 15-year commitment. So I am not Pollyanna about our progress to date, but I am convinced that, at the halfway point of the national NRI pilot, TCHFH has laid a strong foundation for continued partnership with this neighborhood.
Andy Barnett, Director of Community Development, Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity