Community isn’t really a physical thing or a place. It’s created between people, and it’s one of the core principles of Green Doors approach. But it’s really hard to explain, because it’s not what people think of when they think of solving homelessness.
They think of safe, clean affordable housing. And we certainly provide that. We house over 375 Central Texans annually with a safe and clean place to live.
They think of job skills training and education programs, or disability services for vets. And we do all of those things. We hold GED and other education classes on-site at our apartments, and some of our residents have on-site access to the other community resources they need right there.
But most people don’t think about what it’s like to never have been part of a community where you know or can trust your neighbors. Or borrow some sugar or cat-sit when someone goes on vacation or find a responsible babysitter in a pinch. For so many of our residents, this is a new concept. But at our communities, a sense of COMMUNITY has really flourished.
Recently, at Treaty Oaks, one of our facilities, we were holding a volunteer event where we build furniture and gather household items for new residents so that they have a home when they move in. During the event, one of our veterans came out with sandwiches and said he never thanked the people that helped HIM when he moved in, but that he COULD thank this group for helping the next person.
Examples like that are numerous. One of our residents was injured and had a cast on his foot, and a group of residents helped him carry his groceries from the bus. One of our staff saw a resident weeding the community flower beds one day because, he said, they were starting to look a little haggard. Another resident went blind, and his friends set up a rotating dinner plan and scheduled check-ins to make sure he was OK.
The residents help our staff maintain the facilities. They take pride in it. They watch out for each other. The list goes on and on.
The truth is, if you’re not the kind of person who likes getting a helping hand, you might not want to walk through our properties with a limp or a handful of groceries.
And when you think about what our residents have gone through in their lives and what these properties were like before Green Doors, it’s remarkable that these communities have formed up so quickly.
Our residents don’t see each other as “homeless” or formerly homeless people….they’re neighbors.
It is true that Green Doors invests in places. Safe, quality affordable housing is critical. But our best investment…our most productive investment is in people. And our residents remind us of that every day.