Neighbors helping neighbors home

By Christopher Ross, Compass Housing Alliance Board Member

About six months ago I agreed to sit on a neighborhood committee. This group of neighbors had come together to explore how we could welcome a new housing development project to the Columbia City neighborhood. This is not just any housing project, and this is not any normal committee. For what we are really doing is creating community around Compass Crossing, a low-income, steel-frame modular housing solution designed to bring together dignified housing and people-centered services to create thirteen new housing units at the corner of Angeline and 39th Streets in Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood.

Homelessness is a growing challenge in our region and it continues to escalate. I’m honored that our neighborhood is going to play a small but important role in finding a workable solution. While construction for Compass Crossing will only be finalized in Fall of 2017, this group is engaged in an important conversation now. What does it mean to be a good neighbor?

Our all-volunteer council formed to help create a welcoming and supportive network for our new neighbors. So we found ourselves, on a warm May evening, sitting in the basement of the Columbia City Church of Hope, the location where the Compass Crossing community will be built. I know we are all thinking we would rather be outdoors enjoying the sunset, but instead we’re all sitting here discussing how to be authentic and welcoming to our new neighbors.

Neighbors Supporting Neighbors

It was a humble exercise as we revisited our initial list of actions and activities that we drew up months ago: neighborhood walking tours, gardening events, etc. It was a long list, and at the time, we thought it would all be appropriate. Now, it becomes clear to us that there is a fine line between welcoming neighbors and neighbors who want to do too much. It’s been an interesting learning process. Yet every time this volunteer team meets, we gain greater understanding of the nuances of being supportive and helpful and how to balance that with the need to be respectful and just let people normalize into their new living situation. It sometimes feels counter-intuitive, but sometimes the best thing to do is to support people to make their own decisions. As neighbors, the most important task ahead is somewhat simple: to be gracious and welcoming.

We are neighbors who are committed to helping our new neighbors find home.