Bringing the Vital Conditions to Life: Humane Housing
Part of our Vital Conditions series that’s designed to help you bridge the connection from understanding each Vital Condition to identifying ways to improve it in your community and where to start.
Inspired by our organization’s name -- IP3 -- we’ve structured this series to showcase People successfully improving Conditions at the local level, Places who have built up momentum worth modeling, and inspiring Possibilities to drive your work.
What is Humane Housing?
Having a stable, safe place to live is a basic need for all people. Vibrant, supportive neighborhoods in which members look out for each other provide a layer of care that crosses generations and lifts the whole community. The basic tenets of humane housing are: adequate space per person, a safe structure, and a diverse neighborhood that is close to work, school, food, and recreation opportunities. Learn more
Why is this considered a vital condition for health?
As the largest expense for many families, housing in safe, healthy neighborhoods is often unaffordable. However, increased attention to this vital condition has lead to positive changes in many cities. Walkability, social spaces, and aging-in-place concepts are gaining traction as communities recognize that diverse, affordable neighborhoods are the path to building prosperity for families and neighborhoods. Learn more
When Eva Davis moved into Atlanta Housing Authority’s (AHA) East Lake Meadows in the early 1970’s, the housing was new and hope was high. Over time, however, the project became run down and drug deals became a common occurrence, making the area dangerous. Davis was determined to keep her home a safe place for her family and neighbors, so she became president of the tenants’ association and worked tirelessly to get improvements implemented, such as better outdoor lighting, more sidewalks, and a day care center.
Still, time takes a toll on buildings and infrastructure, and more needed to be done. Davis joined forces with the AHA and Tom and Ann Cousins -- local philanthropists and developers -- to help lead a community redevelopment project that saw the formation of the East Lake Foundation and a positive transformation of her community.
The list of accomplishments the East Lake Foundation has achieved is impressive:
Turned the 650 dilapidated, dangerous East Lake Meadows public housing apartments into 542 mixed-income community apartments, townhouses, and duplexes now called the Villages at East Lake.
Supported the opening of the first neighborhood grocery store in the area in 30 years
Established a full slate of Cradle-to-Career programs to help residents meet their full potential, including Atlata’s first charter school. In 2017, 100% of students that attended East Lake’s Charles R. Drew Charter School graduated and were accepted to college.
In 2009, the nonprofit Purpose Built Communities was founded to replicate the success of the East Lake Foundation and is currently working in 18 other locations to revitalize distressed neighborhoods. Read more about the East Lake Community located in DeKalb County.
When plans for a “homeless youth” residential shelter were presented to the people that lived in a neighborhood of Laramie, Wyoming, community backlash was strong enough that the group was forced to put the project on hold. The Laramie County Community Partnership’s Strong Families Strong Wyoming Action Team took a step back and discovered that rebranding was the way to go.
Consulting the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, Strong Families began referencing the project as the “Unaccompanied Student Initiative” and found that public support grew immediately. The team also worked harder to engage stakeholders and the new location’s neighbors from the beginning, so local residents could be involved every step of the way.
The successful steps they took:
Directly asked homeless youth what they needed most to help with their daily lives, and included people that had experienced homelessness in project planning.
Educated the community about youth that were experiencing homeless to alleviate fears and garner support.
Reached out to everyone that lived within 300 feet of the proposed property, and provided them with contact information so residents could ask questions or voice concerns. This time around, not a single complaint was filed, and not a single negative phone call was received.
With construction underway on the Fox Farm Road shelter, an unexpected donation made in December 2018 quickly provided a new home which five students now occupy with a house parent. At this time, the community is able to provide stable housing for 15 unaccompanied students in Laramie County.
Possibilities to Inspire You
We offer the following collection of community success stories, resources, and tools to help you explore current conditions, look for possibilities, build community, and take action.The Well Being Trust has chosen to highlight these solutions as ones that are not only possible, but have a real chance to improve lives.
There are many opportunities to improve conditions for Humane Housing in communities. Some of the most significant opportunities pertain to:
Promoting community design that is human-centered, multimodal and connects neighborhoods with resources;
Ensuring safe affordable housing for all; and
Diversifying housing mix to meet the needs of all residents;
Explore community-based approaches that involve stakeholders in the strategic planning.