Facilitating Communities of Opportunity

By: Lori Stanlick
Posted in: Stories

Hello fellows!  Looking forward to the time when we all meet again and exchange stories in person.   In the meantime.....I thought I'd share how we are utilizing the principles of ABCD in the affordable housing arena.  I have spent the last six months educating counselors/property managers at our properties about ABCD.  So Detroit, Newark, Manchester, CT, and Harlem, NY staff are now focusing in on talents and associations of tenants.  We all have our toolkits, and we are now speaking a common language with a unified approach.  Many times in our industry and in social work in general, the service model has been to create a program that you have "assessed" that people need, and pray they show up.  It is amazing how attached people are to that model!  Shifting the mindset took some doing.  Now, we have coffee hours and open forum vision sessions across the portfolio.  Tenants are working with staff on their vision for their communities, and then by using ABCD, we are defining the talents and associations of tenants (the pathway to the larger communities and resources).  So the traditional model of cooking up what you think might work always led to nearly empty community rooms full of workers good intentions! Now, these open vision sessions, with not much more incentive than a cup of coffee, are bursting at the seams.  A senior building in Newark with 300 tenants has worked very hard in the last two months.  Here is what they envision their community to be:

1.  Safe

2.  Clean and Beautiful

3.  Kind

The talents and associations identified in that community has led to tenant led activities that are not only heartwarming, but effective.  For example, we have a group of senior women that identified themselves as willing to be building captains/health advocates.  They are checking on neighbors daily, and are helping to identify any well-being issues amongst the homebound elderly.  Another group created a green team. On this team are two tenants who are well connected with City Hall.  They are planning major green events at the property this Spring to keep it clean and beautiful.  They have asked their grandchildren to participate.  It is now intergenerational.

The desire to be Kind can be tricky, but the tenants had actionable goals.  Some were suggestions for staff (be nice and smile!), and gentle reminders to themselves to be the change they want to see.  In that spirit, a social committee was formed of tenants with various talents (artistic, musical, cooking, etc...).  They are creating events so people can socialize more and JUST HAVE FUN.  They decided that they have gotten in a rut in how they see each other.  That they were fearful of their neighbors and the neighborhood.  Now they see things are changing, and how they are key to the transformation.  They have decided to create a welcoming committee so new tenants can feel the kindness.  Love and kindness as a goal.  Who can argue with that?

So grateful to the creators, thought leaders, and faculty of the ABCD Institute.  Because of your wisdom, I now have a front row seat in one of the best shows in town!  ABCD in Action!  Hope everyone is having as much fun as I am!


Allison Lourash
12/05/17 07:01:05AM @allison-lourash:

Thanks for sharing Lori!

12/12/17 08:22:57AM @racheldahlke:

Hi Lori! I am also working with residents of a government housing, and my challenge has been that the housing authority which manages the project is struggling to see residents as "citizens" rather than "clients." How have you been working around that in your project? Thanks! - Rachel

ABCD Fellows 2017-2018