If you are a resident of Meadville, PA, you may have noticed some new faces walking through your neighborhood. Equipped with nothing more than a binder and a smile, our trio has been knocking on doors since November. Maybe you have already spoken with us, maybe you haven’t. Either way, your first thought was probably what do they want? First, rest assured we aren’t selling anything. We have no Omaha Steaks to offer, nor do we promise any discounts on your electric bill. For some of you, this may seem like a relief, while to others, I apologize. What we are doing, however, is braving the elements for the opportunity to be invited into your warm home, porch, or even hearts if I’m reaching. We only want the opportunity to listen and learn from you. Not necessarily what you expect when someone knocks on your door, right?
Lee, Jamie, and I are part of a new project just getting underway called H.O.P.E. Meadville. If you are still wondering why we are knocking on your door, let us in and I’ll explain.
H.O.P.E Meadville is an initiative, rooted in the Trauma Informed Community Development framework developed by FOCUS Pittsburgh, that is all about supporting people in their communities. Through this support, we are promoting resilience and healing for communities impacted by trauma. We want to help communities heal so that people in neighborhoods just like yours are healthy enough to sustain opportunities as well as realize their own potential. We often come across people who are struggling to find or hold onto a good job or affordable housing. Time and time again we find those around us, or maybe even ourselves, repeatedly losing these opportunities just as quickly as they come. These situations can make us feel like we’ll never get ahead. Individuals who have experienced repeated, sustained and unaddressed trauma often find themselves unable to realize goals that we all share for a healthy and productive life. Our goal is to help make our communities better not only for ourselves, but for our children, and for generations to come.
What do I mean by trauma? Many of us are able to recognize our own traumatic experiences like domestic violence, bullying, or even emotional abuse. But what we may be less familiar with is the impact a different type of trauma can have on us and our communities. Many communities experience “hidden” acts of violence many of us may not see, experience, or even think of as violence, such as the lack of safe or affordable housing, racism, classism, or even limited access to jobs that offer eventual growth and a livable wage. These are all examples of traumas. Through years and generations these traumas create a cycle that has proven easier to continue than break. So this is where H.O.P.E. can help.
An essential part of the H.O.P.E process is getting to know YOU, the people who LIVE in these communities. This is our way of beginning to understand how you see your neighborhood and what you would like to see change for yourselves and others around you. We want to know what things you think are great about your neighborhood as well as the things you would like to make better. We want to listen to your stories. We care because we are all neighbors in the greater Meadville area and we want every one of our neighbors and neighborhoods to have a high quality of life where all residents have access to quality services, and are able to build local assets and connect to economic opportunities in a safe setting. So what are we going to do about it?
Together, we will be working alongside you as well as other partners to establish a detailed plan for improving health and wellbeing (H) economic opportunity (O), the physical environment (P), and to empower (E) neighbors and build leadership to assure a self-sustaining approach going forward. Over time, as the plan is implemented, progress will be measured and assessed. As goals are met in one block, we are then able to expand to the next small area or block. Eventually, the goal is to create a web of small neighborhoods where people are improving their health, the health of their neighborhood and embracing a range of opportunities.
I look forward to meeting with more of you, getting to know what you love about your community, as well as what you would like to make better for generations to come. So the next time one of us knocks on your door, please open it up and talk to us. We only want to listen to you.
To learn more, contact the H.O.P.E team at (814) 853-2518 or HOPEMeadville@gmail.com
Ebony Baxter is the Trauma Informed Community Development Organizer for the H.O.P.E. Meadville initiative, sponsored by Women’s Services. She is working closely with Lee Scandinaro Community Coordinator for the H.O.P.E. Meadville initiative and Jamie Marks who is a Psychology Intern at Edinboro University and an intern for the initiative. This article first appeared in the Meadville Tribune.