GELT participants striking peaceful poses

The following post was written by Global Exchange’s G.E.L.T. (Green Economy Leadership Training) program participant Kate Powers:

Ready for community input, O.W.S. (Operation We Squat) canvassed earlier today. Our original vision for the home on Grove Street was to create a community space for Highland Park, potentially a youth center or library. We were very focused on the specifics of the house rather than the basic, functional elements and what the community really needed. As a result, canvassing was a major reality check.
We received three kinds of responses:
  1. Negative. The first house Marion and I approached consisted of a woman who was skeptical and, frankly, very angry with the G.E.L.T. program. She said that last year GELTers went around Grove Street making promises to the community that were not fulfilled. She felt like outsiders invaded Grove Street with lofty goals but left once the summer was over with none of the goals met. She made it obvious that some people on Grove felt betrayed by the G.E.L.T. program. Many of these “broken promises” were due to miscommunications between the program and the community last year but that doesn’t change the fact that there are trust issues present between G.E.L.T. and Grove Street that need to be addressed.
  2. Apathetic. Other people we talked to said they didn’t care what was done to the house as long as the yard was taken care of. They were more worried about the potholes and lack of streetlights than the renovation of 76 Grove Street.
  3. Positive. Some people supported our efforts. Families with small children were responsive to the idea of having some kind of youth center where kids can go after school. Other community members liked the idea of having a garden in the back where the food grown can be distributed to people who tend to the garden. One community member in particular was a great advocate for our cause, Ms. Walker. Now she even has a date with Mike to go to the city council meeting on Monday and is going to go to church with Lauren one upcoming Sunday. Ms. Walker cares about the Grove Street community and wants to see it prosper.
As a result of our canvassing, we have determined three issues that need to be addressed on Grove Street:
  1. Trust. The outside of the house is a very important part of its transformation as many people in the community will not believe or support us until prominent physical change has occurred. Keeping our promise to renovate 76 Grove Street is very important in building our trust with the community.
  2. Security. Multiple community members have told us that the house is not safe to leave alone overnight. Squatters can easily take over or illegal activity can occur. Therefore, we plan to definitely have a residency aspect integrated into our renovation plans.
  3. Community. We are starting to realize that simply creating a youth center or library on Grove Street does not make it a community. We can help the area more by fixing up the home and renting it to people who care about Grove Street and Highland Park. We do want some community aspect involve with the home, so we have been playing around with the idea of forming a garden in the backyard where fresh produce can be distributed to community members who tend to the garden.
After the canvass, Mike made a good point that maybe we had misunderstood where the value of the project should be placed. In the words of Marion, our idealist bubble had been popped. We still believe in this project but we have to take it one step at a time. To achieve our goals, we must rebuild the broken relationships between G.E.L.T. and Grove Street by following through with our promises.
Until next time!