Stories of Holistic Neighborhood Approaches to Helping People in the Recession

South 8th and I Streets in Downtown Tacoma was a blighted intersection when a nun led the Catholic Worker and a group of neighbors to close off the intersection, create a small park with a kids’ play toy and a community garden. Now neighbors are growing relationships with each other while growing vegetables. Families are able to save on food costs and childcare as well.

Aurora CommonsAurora Commons was birthed by Awake Church this last year on Aurora in Seattle. The Commons is a living room for a community that no 3rd places to spend time with one another. It is in constant use by the community for different events and gatherings. Out of the common life shared there the community is able to build a relational web of care to support one another through difficulties. A group of people from Awake moved into a quadplex behind the commons. One of the apartments is used to help people who are in need get on their feet. A community garden was started and is shared on the next lot over.

Adsideo’s Living Room in Sellwood, Portland is similar to the Aurora Commons in that it is used at a gathering place for their neighborhood. It is open all week—stocked with coffee, tea and refreshments. The church meets there Sunday mornings, tutoring and free educational classes are held throughout the week. Adsideo also facilitates a few houses in partnership with the Portland Rescue Mission for homeless men and women who are looking to get off substance abuse. A major advantage for Adsideo in their tutoring and care for the homeless is that over 50 of their church members live in their neighborhood and 20+ also maintain jobs there. That close proximity throughout the week allows for people who go through one of their programs to stay connected to relational web of care in the community without having to stay in that particular ministry. They are free to explore their unique calling in the neighborhood context without losing their day-to-day connection to the Body.

Springwater is a church that decided to move into four houses together in the Lents neighborhood in Portland. In their first three years, Springwater has hosted potlucks, bike repair workshops, block parties, gardening classes and “wacky water day” at a neighborhood park. There has been an obvious drop in drug users walking the streets and, following Springwater’s lead, neighbors have been able to build stronger connection and layers of support with one another for dealing with hard times (as well as enjoying the good!). The word has gotten out in Portland and the Oregonian recently was moved to do a story on Springwater’s efforts in Lents.

Nurture Healing Center was started by Nichole from Zoe in Downtown Tacoma. After years of working for other businesses in the neighborhood as a massage therapist, Nichole branched out on her own with Nurture. Several other therapists have joined her in the space, including several that are just starting out. Nichole is mentoring them all in building their client base and how to run an all-around successful massage therapy business. Yoga and self-defense classes, a neighborhood church, and several other community events all make use of the large community space in the back of Nurture. A neighboring bookkeeper who recently graduated with her accounting degree has been able to kick start her business by doing the books for each therapist and making use of Nurture’s office space.

Anna from Zoe helped grow Embellish Salon to the point it could assist its owners, neighbors Trish and Thane, to buy a building in the neighborhood and open 4 more businesses in it (including a smoothie bar, coffee shop and local produce stand). After being Embellish’s lead stylist for a few years, she opened The Parlor—her very own salon. The Parlor is booked to capacity at all times and Anna is well-known in Downtown and throughout the city for her ability to relate and listen to clients. More stylists are now being added to the roster and the business is growing at an impressive rate.

Anna’s husband Jason started Grit City studios this last year after years of playing and writing music in and for the neighborhood. In its first year the studio is booked in line with the business plan and is proving to be sustainable. He has already mentored several bands to the point they are starting to financially sustain themselves as musicians.

Zoeites, Mike and Molly, bought Corina Bakery in 2008. In three years Mike and Molly have been able to triple the business of the bakery and provide jobs for several people, including Liz and other folks from Zoe. Liz manages the front of the house where there is plenty of seating and excellent coffee always ready to be made. People from all over the neighborhood walk there to spend time chatting or reading. It’s become quite the community gather place and community relationships are grown and formed each day.

For more stories and information on the growing neighborhood movement, visit the Parish Collective.