Understanding and Responding to Nimbyism (Not in My Back Yard)

As cities all over North America work to provide low-income households a safe and affordable home, they face numerous persistent barriers.  These include the high cost of land, the search for funding for development, policy and zoning, and a very human challenge: Nimbyism in the local community.

Here’s a story to illustrate the challenge of Nimbyism:
A few years ago, I ran into an old friend at a consultation for a new affordable housing complex proposed for her neighbourhood, and asked her what she thought.  She said, “Look, I get it that everyone needs a place to live, and that we need more places like this, but here?  On the corner of my park?  My kids have to walk past there all the time on their way to school.”

Now I know my friend to be a caring and compassionate person, and a great mom.  But faced with this change, she had a strong reaction; one sometimes referred to in shorthand as a NIMBY reaction:  “Not In My Back Yard.”

On May 14, 2019, the Interfaith Housing Initiative hosted a workshop at Queen Alexandra Community League called “Understanding and Responding to Nimbyism.”  This was the third of four workshops in a series called, “Getting Consultation Right!”  This event featured two panels of speakers, including three housing providers and two community leaders all willing to share their experience and insight in how to both understand and respond to Nimbyism.    You can watch the full panel discussion at the link below, or keep reading for a summary of key points:

Here is some of what we learned together:

How can we understand Nimbyism?
Here is a working definition we are using:  Nimbyism (Not in My Back Yard)  is a (sometimes) strong reaction or response to more significant changes in a local area; especially those perceived as possibly negative.

So how should we understand why people react as they do?
In our second panel discussion, Fraser Porter, the current president of the Edmonton Federation of Community leagues observed that “Love and attachment are the root causes. We love our neighbourhoods and we resist change because we worry something we love is being lost.”

That natural fear of change was also noted by Carola Cunningham, who serves as CEO of Niginan Developments, a provider of Permanent Supportive Housing.  Cunnningham noted that “it is only natural to object and respond with fear to the unknown (color, culture, addiction, etc) and all those things must be meaningfully addressed to have an honest dialogue.

Certainly, the love for what we have and the fear of losing it are very powerful impulses. Some of those fears may be connected to structural changes to infrastructure such as parking and traffic flow, the fit and flow of architecture, the loss of trees or open spaces.  But other fears may centre around who the new neighbours might be, and how they will integrate into the local community.

Q: How can we respond well to Nimbyism?
The answer that seemed to come forward from our panelists was to respond to fears with clear, honest and open communication; working to build both a shared understanding and a trusting relationship moving forward.  To do that, the housing provider should avoid thinking about or treating local neighbours as opponents, even if there are strong feelings or anger.  As with all relationships, how we conduct ourselves in the midst of conflict can either inflame or resolve concerns.

Sherri Shorten, a community voice from Holyrood said it was important to “Believe in the community voice. The people in our community were hurt by being called NIMBY. It broke down relationships when they were bringing truly valid concerns to the table.” 

Cam McDonald from Right at Home Housing Society noted that:  “What was important in the North Glenora context was an openness on both sides. What I learned was just how much the community was willing to give to create a shared vision and understanding.

Demonstrating openness and a will to patiently answer people’s questions makes room for trust, and for the community to also give of themselves to the health of the project and their new neighbours.

Consultation pic

Q: Is it problematic to tell the community about the health problems of residents?
At one level, even talking about who is going to live in a new housing development seems problematic.  In Canada, no one has the right to choose their neighbours, and discrimination based on age, ability, illness, race or culture, or religious belief is not permitted.  But our panelists responded in favour of answering those questions openly and honestly.

“It can be heard in comments like, “How do you screen your tenants? How do you ensure our community remains safe?  At my house I don’t get to pick who is my next-door neighbour. The zoning bylaw is very clear. It’s not about the USER, its about the USE. However, its so important that you don’t offend the people you’re talking to. You do have to address their concerns.” (Cam Macdonald, Right at Home Housing Society)

Trueman Macdonald, who oversees the work at Iris Court a supportive home for formerly homeless persons with schizophrenia shared their approach:  “We actually saw it as an opportunity to educate the community as well. It was just natural for us to talk about it. Our whole mandate is advocacy and breaking down those barriers. Our people with lived experience want to get their stories out to reduce the stigma surrounding their illness.”

Addressing people’s concerns with patience and respect is the best way to help them better understand and put their fears and concerns into context.  It also paves the way for understanding and healthy long-term relationships in the local community.

A very helpful tool in this regard are Good Neighbour Agreements.  With Iris Court, the Schizophrenia society provided a detailed “Good Neighbour Agreement” to the local community that included info regarding tenants, services, house rules, and how the organization planned to respond to community complaints.  Having a clear plan and a process available showed the community the strength of Iris Court’s commitment to being a good neighbour.  It also helped the tenants feel safe and secure in their new community.

The Nimby response is a very ordinary and human reaction to change in a local community.  Good consultation takes the time to work through people’s questions and concerns openly and honestly, without judging them or treating them as opponents.  A patient approach builds toward a trusting relationship between the local community and the developer.  In the space of that relationship, honest and constructive engagement is able to flow, supporting the long-term health and vitality of the project, the local community, and those finding a home there.


By Mike Van Boom, Network Animator for Interfaith Housing Initiative (CRIHI)

The article is presented as a summary of key learnings in this third, of four workshops in a resource design project hosted by CRIHI, involving community leaders, housing providers and people of faith in a collaborative creation of consultation resources.   The full resources we have developed together will be delivered in the fall of 2019; made possible by a grant from the Edmonton Community Foundation, with Al Rashid Mosque serving as fiscal agent for the project.

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CRIHI Asks – Get involved!

Hello everyone.  CRIHI has some pretty interesting and exciting work underway, and we have several opportunities to get involved.   Take a look!

  1. We need new members to serve on our steering committee.  (Time requirement:  One meeting every other month; typically a daytime slot which works best for faith leaders and partners.)
    1. Oversees the larger direction of the movement.
    2. Supervises staff and committee work.
  2. From our Governance Committee:  (meets once every other month)
    1. We are seeking to grow our circle of funding in order to build and expand our LAN work to cover the entire capital region
      • Send us your volunteers familiar with grant-writing.
      • put us on your donations schedule; donations arranged through the Anglican Diocese.  Contact John Gee to inquire after process:  treasurer@edmonton.anglican.ca
      • Help us arrange for additional staff.
  3. From our Education and Advocacy Committee:  (normally meets monthly)
    1. Join our learning community; the Neighbourly! Tell us your stories.  Share why your faith thinks this work is important.
    2. Join our working tables:
      • Zero-percent mortgages. (just beginning)
      • Reintegrating people coming out of prison (just beginning)
      • Learning how to get consultation right.  (Project underway
  4. Volunteer
    1. Interfaith Habitat Works project. (Advisory committee hosted by Habitat For Humanity)
    2. Welcome Home.
  5. Connect with us on Land opportunities.
    1. We can come present on affordable and supportive housing as a possible direction; along with some examples.
    2. We are able to serve as a broker for connections with formal partners and resources.

To learn more or to respond to any of these asks, please contact:

Mike Van Boom, CRIHI’s Interfaith Network Animator
mike@interfaithhousing.ca; 780.554.2703

Interfaith Habitat Works – Wrap-up Party!

Habitat for Humanity Edmonton and the Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative are celebrating the success of the 8th Annual Interfaith Works Project with a Wrap Up Ceremony that will include speakers and lunch!

It’s been an eventful three months with hundreds of volunteers from many different faith communities working together in a common cause: building homes for low-income families!  Come join us as we celebrate together!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at Carter Place (2216 – 24 Street NW)

Ceremony begins at 11:30 sharp, so please come a little early so you can find parking*.  And of course, please plan to join us for lunch!

Carter Place Map

*Parking is only available on side streets around the development.

To RSVP by email, contact: volunteer@hfh.org | T: (780) 451-3416 x 222

Faith Leaders Work Day with Habitat for Humanity! – May 1, 2019

Calling all Rabbis, Imams, Pastors, Priests, and Gurus!  CRIHI invites you to take up hammers and paint brushes for our first ever…

Faith Leaders Work Day!


Wednesday, May 1, 2019; From 8:30 am – 4:00 pm at Carter Place

With the help of thousands of volunteers from every skill level and background, Habitat for Humanity Edmonton has provided over 500 families with a hand-up into home ownership.

This year, we asked ourselves, what would happen if we had all kinds of different faith leaders working together at on the big Habitat build site at Carter Place?

Our answer:  Who knows?!  But it would likely be a lot of fun!
So here’s the formal call to faith leaders from every tradition to take a day on May 1st and come join us.


To sign up:
1. Please rsvp to mike@interfaithhousing.ca,
2. Register with our faith leader’s work group (group name: Interfaith Works 2019) on May 1 according to the instructions below:Here’s the link to get started, with the steps to register below:
https://www.hfh.org/volunteer/



If you have any questions about your registration, please contact:
Megan Stannard at mstannard@hfh.org or 780-451-3416 x 237


May 1, 2019 – Instructions for the day!

Working in my Community, Part Two

So you’re interested in working in your community…  As you begin, consider the following insights from those involved in community development work.

Before you dig into this session, please ensure you have read part one in this series: Working In My Community; Part One

Part Two Focus: Let’s find our way forward carefully, and make sure we do no harm.


The Oath for Compassionate Service

  1. Listen first.
  2. Never do for another what they can do for themselves.
  3. Limit one-way giving to emergencies; then stop.  (Sustained one-way giving creates a dependency; often diminishing a person’s capacity)
  4. Strive to empower the materially poor through employment, lending and investing, using grants sparingly to reinforce achievements.
  5. Keep your self-interest secondary to the needs of those being served.
  6. Listen closely to those you seek to help
  7. Above all, do no harm.

(Provided by Robert Lupton in Toxic Charity)


DO NO HARM

“Until we embrace our mutual brokenness, our work with low-income people is likely to do far more harm than good.” 

Research from around the world has found that shame – a “poverty of being”- is a major part of the brokenness that low-income people experience in relationship with themselves. …low-income people often feel they are inferior to others.  This can paralyze the poor from taking initiative and from seizing opportunities to improve their situation, thereby locking them into material poverty.

At the same time, the economically rich …also suffer from a poverty of being.  In particular, development practitioner Jayakumar Christian argues that the economically rich often have ‘god-complexes,’ a subtle and unconscious sense of superiority in which they have achieved their wealth through their own efforts.  …the way that we act toward the economically poor often communiicates – albeit unintentionally – that we are superior and they are inferior.  In the process we hurt the poor and ourselves.”

When Helping Hurts, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert


how can i help

Consider these three levels of help we can provide.   


Relief
The urgent and temporary provision of emergency aid to reduce immediate suffering.
Giving a sandwich to someone who is hungry; taking someone in out of the cold, or calling an ambulance for someone injured.

Rehabilitation
Restoring people to the positive elements of their pre-crisis conditions.

Assistance finding housing, or a job and reconnection with their family.

Development
A process of ongoing change that moves all people involved to right relationships to ourselves, to others, to God and to the creation.
Helping someone find a supportive community, belonging, purpose, mentoring, healing from trauma and addictions.

*Warning:  Hurt comes when we apply the wrong intervention.
Example:  Sustained one-way giving (relief work) creates a dependency; often diminishing a person’s capacity.  (points one and three in the oath of compassion.


Most people in North America are capable of participation in the improvement of their lives, so we should always be doing development work.  “Let’s figure this out together.”

To watch for along the way…

  1. Look for systemic issues and then also focus on advocacy. [ie. working (helping yourself) while on social assistance means reduction in benefits.]
  2. The design, implementation and evaluation should be done by all participating.

Here’s a great Edmonton example of community development:

The Riverbend neighbourhood is home to a pocket of affordable housing in a community called Brander Gardens.  A circle of local organizations including the school, churches, the library, the community league, and local sports programs came together to develop an outreach program called Brander Gardens ROCKS! that provides all kinds of different opportunities for the kids and families.

Riverbend United Church has been a strong partner from the beginning, opening up space for programming, and providing volunteers.  Every year, they host a community meal inviting the broad community including some Syrian families.  But rather than just having church volunteers provide lunch for the community, they chose to invite BG Rocks families to participate in every stage.  So these families help plan the meal, do the shopping, and cook the meal with the church’s volunteers.  This shared effort makes for a wonderful and special event that is rewarding for everybody.


BG Rocks families gathering with Riverbend United Church members

 

Interfaith Habitat Works 2019!

From March 5 – June 5, CRIHI and her partners at Habitat for Humanity invite you to come join us as people of many faiths put boots on the ground together building homes for people.  There is still time and opportunity to get involved, so come join us!


Ways you can get involved:

  • Volunteer on a build or at a ReStore: Volunteers can come out either individually or as a group. Beginners are welcome and all equipment and tools are provided.
  • Feed the volunteers: contributions of lunches or baked goods are welcome.
  • Attend the Kick-off and Wrap-up events

Here is the link to Habitat’s Interfaith page where you can sign up your groups, download posters and information, and find answers to your questions:
http://www.hfh.org/interfaith/  

We also have a promotional video for you to share with your community:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUA5Vgj2ivY&feature=youtu.be

And a Special Invite to Faith Leaders! 


CRIHI is excited to announce our first ever …

Faith Leaders Work Bee!
May 1, 2019

Habitat work days usually start around 8:30 and go until the later afternoon.  If you as a faith leader are at all able, carve out a day in your schedule to come work on site with leaders from other faith traditions.  A formal invitation will be sent out shortly, but please mark your calendars!

Three Hebrew Words

Shalom

Shalom is a rich word in the Hebrew scriptures. encompassing “universal flourishing, wholeness and delight,” according to Christian Theologian, Cornelius Plantinga Jr.   Shalom is often thought of as the desire of God for all his creation; characterizing both Eden in Genesis, and in the new creation in Revelation.

Chata

Contrasted with shalom, is the Hebrew word for sin.  In Hebrew, the word sin (Chata) literally means “missing the mark; or getting it wrong.”  But more broadly, Plantinga explains sin as any human action that vandalizes shalom; causing harm; breaking relationships; resisting, twisting or distorting something good, doing damage in word or deed.

Chata damages Shalom when…

  • We sin against another person.
    Gossip…  abuse…  neglect…  or even by trying to do good in the wrong way.
  • We sin against creation.
    polluting…   exploiting…   neglecting our responsibilities as stewards and caretakers.
  • We sin against ourselves.
    Accepting lies that fuel either pride or depression.  Losing our freedom to addictions and the pursuit of false hopes.
  • We sin against our Creator.
    denying God’s existence and authority; putting our trust for the future elsewhere, and sinning against others, ourselves, or the creation.

Hesed

The path of restoration and healing relies heavily on hesed; or the practice of covenant love.  It is a love commitment that binds relationships together for the long term, so that no matter what happens the relationship holds together.    In the Bible, God forms several covenants with his people to rescue them, teach them, heal them, and restore Shalom.  By practicing hesed,God shows his commitment to his children; a stubborn love that never gives up.

So too, God wants his children to practice covenant love with each other so that our families and friendships are strong, and our communities are warm and vibrant, where everyone belongs and is cared for.  In relationships built on Hesed, we find ourselves in a circle of secure and committed love where we can put broken pieces back together, and find shalom.

As we work to care for each other in our city, may we too seek God’s vision of Shalom for each other, reject actions that knowingly or unknowingly cause harm to another, and couch every work of hope and healing in the context of loving relationship.


By Pastor Mike Van Boom, Christian Reformed Church

Working In My Community; Part One

So you’re interested in working in your community…    As you begin, consider the following insights from those involved in community development work.


Look before you leap!  What do you see?

“Imagine that my neighbours only saw me by the the empty half of my glass.  He’s the old guy with heart problems…   How would they treat me then?” – John McKnight


Here’s a true story

 

Not so long ago, in a city not unlike our own, there was a church who wanted to find a way to give back to their community.  So they did some driving around in a few neighbourhoods where there was a lot of poverty.  After a while, they found an area where they saw a lot of young families with kids, but no place for the kids to play.  But there was a big empty lot there.  They called up the city and discovered that this piece of property was actually zoned as a public park, but no one had built it.

So they did a fundraiser, purchased the materials, loaded up the trucks in the church parking lot, and went out with a crew of volunteers.  After a few hours, they completed the task,and invited the neighbours for a celebratory BBQ.  Gradually two circles formed; one of neighbours and one of the church volunteers.  Eventually, a few of the church volunteers went over to talk to the neighbours and asked what they thought of the playground.

The neighbours answered honestly.  “Actually we’re a little discouraged about this.  You see we had our own plans to build a playground here.  This empty lot…  We were the ones who got it zoned as a playground.  But you never came to talk to us to see what we wanted or what we thought.”


The point in telling a story like this is not to heap abuse on the efforts of well-meaning volunteers; it’s to get us thinking about unintentional consequences, and about what a better approach might look like.  So consider these questions:

  1. When this church community looked at this neighbourhood, what did they see?  Did they see it by the full half or the empty half of the glass?
  2. What was their relationship with the community like throughout the process?
  3. Was there any harm done unintentionally to this local community?
  4. What might they have done differently that would have made this a very positive example?

Consider this chart that provides a helpful framework.   It asks us to consider how we do things as parents, churches, governments, or other institutions.  We hope it will help you discover how to do the work of loving our neighbour and our community in a way that nurtures health and vitality in each other (sharing from the full half of our glass).

How should we do this..?

Here are a few points to consider when engaging your community:
1. Successful community development is asset-based, internally-focused, and relationship driven.  (Whatever we do, we do it with!)
2. Lasting change comes from within the community.
3. Engaging people’s skills is a priority.  (work with local assets; the full half of the glass)

“to be effective community-builders, faith congregations need to function as both ‘faith communities,’and place-based communities.” 

  • As Faith communities, they should understand and lift up the gifts and talents of its members.
  • As Place-based communities, they should play a role alongside other entities within their specific neighbourhood, discovering and engaging assets in the local community.

What can this look like?  Consider this true (slightly better) example.


Another church community wanted to get involved in their community and get to know their neighbours.  So every Sunday morning, they did a March for Jesus in the blocks surrounding their church.  They put a Ghetto blaster on a stroller (old school!), and picked up garbage or cleaned up Graffiti as they went.  Over time, they began to meet and have conversations with their neighours.  Some neighbours were inspired to fix broken windows and clean up their yards.  Eventually, the neighbours shared that they had difficulty getting rid of larger junk.  So the church set up a dumpster on their property to help local neighbours clear out their garbage.

More to come…

There is much more to consider on this, but we hope to continue this series on community development in the Neighbourly over the course of the next few months.


Do you have a story or an example to share as to help us as we learn together?  Please send it our way!  Email: Mike@interfaithhousing.ca


Key stories and examples in this reflection were featured in a January workshop hosted at Southpointe Community Church called “Helping without Harming” by Diaconal Ministries Canada and World Renew. 

Housing Highlights from 2018!

It is time to count our blessings!  We have seen some encouraging movements this past year.  Let’s take note together and give thanks!

From the community update shared by Homeward Trust on National Housing Day, November 28, 2018 at the Royal Alberta Museum.

As the above summary report suggests: One of the most pressing frontline needs continues to be for more Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH).

PSH works much like Seniors Assisted Living facilities to provide more intensive and longer term care and supports to help those with numerous and complex barriers or challenges.  Thankfully, we are seeing some progress on that front with the promise of much more!


The picture above is of Balwin Place in Edmonton’s Northeast; one of Edmonton’s newest PSH facilities (Homeward Trust and George Spady Society); home to 25 new residents.

This past month, CRIHI was also able to visit Elizabeth House (E4C); which will be a supportive home and community for an additional 20 residents; historically a communal home to Anglican clergy in Edmonton’s Alberta Avenue community.

Here are a few pictures we took inside, including a bedroom, the kitchen where staff and residents will together prepare meals, and the chapel or space for spiritual reflection:

elizabeth kitchenelizabeth bedelizabeth chapel


Do we have more on the way?  Yes!

The City of Edmonton is preparing to designate four city sites in Edmonton for Permanent Supportive Housing.  The locations of those plots are still being determined, but they are moving forward.  The city of Edmonton recently approved significant investments in affordable housing, as we detailed in our November issue of the Neighbourly.

The Province of Alberta has also made significant commitments and investments both here in Edmonton and across the province.  They created the first Provincial Affordable Housing Strategy.  The strategy prioritizes people and focuses on their success and well-being. The government is standing by its commitment of $1.2 billion toward the development of 4,100 new or regenerated housing units across the province.

On November 9, the Province announced a $3 million investment in a new Veterans Service Centre and transitional housing project in north Edmonton. The project will help link veterans to a range of services, including transitional housing, employment and training services and crisis supports.

Below is a list of affordable housing projects which have been announced in the Edmonton area, that are recipients of Provincial funding:

ACTION ITEM!
There is so much yet to be done, but we really do have much to be excited about and grateful for.  Please take a moment this month to contact your MLA, your MP, and your City councillor.  Tell them how important an affordable home is to everyone, and thank them for some of the good work being done to ensure people have access to affordable housing!
And just a little more good news…
We are also pleased to see some good stories come forward on the community hospitality front; such as the following example from the Beverly Community in Edmonton’s Northeast:

Religious and spiritual communities working to end homelessness in Edmonton and area

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