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Thoughts on Home and Community

10 March 2015

Wendy Kohn, Marketing and Development Director at Partnership for Strong Communities

I’ve been thinking a lot about home and community lately, maybe because my spouse and I have been in New England long enough now to start feeling like we are part of a community. Back in Oregon, I worked with a group of people experiencing homelessness and we talked a lot about the meaning of home. Because the thing is, this group had gotten fed up with not having a home, not even having a place to get out of the rain (there aren’t enough shelter beds), and sick of being chased from any place where they tried to get a little rest (like many cities in America, it’s illegal to sleep outside in public places in Portland).

So back in 2000, this small group banded together and, in an act of peaceful civil disobedience, formed a tent city they called Dignity Village. They didn’t just make it a place to sleep; they made it a community, a place where they felt pride and ownership and where they cared what happened to themselves and to their neighbors. And that made it their home. Maybe not a forever home, but a home nonetheless, a place to gather the frayed edges of tattered days and a private space to rest and rebuild and recover. And isn’t that what we all need from a home, in a way?

No longer a collection of ragged tents, today Dignity Village exists as a city-sanctioned democratic community of 52 micro-houses intended to provide a safe haven for people in transition from homelessness into more stable permanent housing. A registered non-profit organization run entirely by people experiencing homelessness, Dignity Village provides support for people to save their resources, access help for mental or physical health issues, find jobs, or get their kids back. It’s a place to belong, to call home, to be an active voice in the growth and development of its community, and a place to feel like a productive and valued American citizen once again.

And now here in Connecticut, I am thrilled to have joined the team at the Partnership, helping to find a way for everyone to have a safe, affordable home and a strong community.


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